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William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury in Color

By Audrey Golden. Aug 13, 2016. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Legendary Authors, Book Collecting, Literature

Each year, The Folio Society publishes a number of limited editions. Each of the books, according to The Folio Society, are “strictly limited, bound to order and numbered by hand”, and they are “outstanding works of literary or historical significance.” Back in 2012, a Folio Society limited edition of William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury (1929) became available to collectors. What was so unique about this limited edition was that it reproduced the colored print pattern—in all 14 colors imagined by Faulkner—to guide the reader through the novel. Yet in the 1920s, such printing practices were nearly unheard of. In The Folio Society’s limited edition, however, readers finally could gain access to Faulkner’s original vision for The Sound and the Fury. And due to the popularity of the limited edition, The Folio Society just this year released an “exclusive colourised text version of an American literary masterpiece . . . [p]ublished the way William Faulkner wanted it to be published.”

Tracking Time through Color in The Sound and the Fury

Faulkner_Hamlet_InventoryThe first section of the novel (which has a total of four sections) is narrated from the point of view of Benjy Compson, a mentally disabled man. While the titles of each section refer only to dates—beginning with April 7, 1928 and ending with April 8, 1928, while jumping all the way back to 1910 in intervening sections—the four parts of the novel commonly are described by their narrators. For instance, the first section often is known as the “Benjy section,” while the second section, narrated by Benjy’s brother Quentin, is described by scholars and readers alike as the “Quentin section.”

According to The Folio Society’s press release for the limited edition, Faulkner hoped to convey the fragmentary narrations of Benjy—often jumping quickly through time and space—by alternating the colors of the text. In Joseph Blotner’s Faulkner: A Biography, the author quoted Faulkner’s discussion of the printing process with his editor: “I wish publishing was advanced enough to use colored ink...”

While the Benjy section initially draws readers’ attention to 1928, it actually moves back and forth in time, and without warning or notice. The text begins on April 7, 1928, but Benjy’s narration quickly brings us back to December 23, 1908. In Faulkner’s colorized version of the novel, he imagined the December 1908 dates in green. Then, when the narration jumps forward to 1912 or 1913, Faulkner planned for the section’s text to be printed in a shade of purple. Each time Benjy’s narration shifted in time, the text color would alert the reader. As such, Faulkner had planned to guide readers through the novel with visual cues.

Faulkner_The_Town_InventoryWithout the colorized text, early readers—and indeed all of us up until the most recent Folio Society publication—have had a very different experience of reading the novel than what the author initially anticipated.

Adding a Folio Society Limited Edition to Your Library

As we mentioned, The Folio Society just recently made available a version of The Sound and the Fury with proper colorized text based on the 2012 limited edition. For $99.00, you can purchase one of these 2016 copies for your personal library.

Since the 2012 limited edition was, as the title suggests, limited, no more copies are available from The Folio Society. It was published in a limited edition of 1,480 copies, and 1,000 of those were pre-ordered. At the time, the limited edition sold for $345.00. However, if you want to add one of these rare copies to your shelf, you’ll likely need to spend anywhere from $2,000.00 to $5,000.00.

While one of the 2012 limited editions may be quite hard—if not impossible—to own at this point, we highly recommend ordering one of the 2016 publications. After all, who wouldn’t want a chance to read The Sound and the Fury as Faulkner intended?

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Audrey Golden
World literature scholar and erstwhile lawyer. Lover of international travel, outdoor markets, and rare books.


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