Collection Folio No. 1 — what is the first Folio book?

In Facty facts, French, Language-matters, Miraculous discoveries, Random fun stuff, Uncategorized on Thursday 7th May, 2009 by Guy

This one really had me stumped, and I’m surprised at how hard it was to solve.

One of France’s largest publishers, Gallimard, releases many books under the “Folio” imprint. For me, these books are the quintessence of French book publishing. They invariably have a white background, a simple cover, and a very serious, classic text inside. They look like this.

On the spine there is a number, which I suppose represents how many books have previously been published under the Folio imprint, but I couldn’t confirm this. They are up to four digits now… They are truly ubiquitous in any French bookshop.

An obvious question arises if one is as easily distracted by pointless questions as I am: which book has the number 1 on its spine? Purely by chance (helped no doubt by its fame), I found that Albert Camus’ “L’étranger” is number 2. It couldn’t be much harder to find its predecessor, surely? A quick google search or three should suffice…

But of course it wasn’t sufficient, otherwise I wouldn’t have written about it. [Oh, selection and publication bias, how I adore thee!] Incredibly, I could not find a simple list of all the Folio books every published along with their associated number. Yes, of course the Folio collection has its own site. But it didn’t burp up the simple list I required.

Anywho, after much speculative clicking, I managed to order all Folio books in order of publication date. And thus it was that I found that the “first ever” Folio book — albeit published on the same day as “L’étranger”, on the 7th of January 1972 — is…

André Malraux’s

“La condition humaine”

Never heard of it either, but it looks serious and classic.

Now I can sleep safely.


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