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Folios are very tall books—15 inches or more. Elephant folios are up to 23 inches in height. Atlas folios, up to 25 inches. There are even double elephant folios, which can be up to 50 inches tall!
By the mid-19th century, folios were made with state-of-the-art printing technology. Larger sheets of paper and new roller presses allowed the creation of these oversized books.
Typically these folios were scientific and scholarly works intended for a very specialized audience, both because of the subject matter, and also the cost. James Audubon’s Birds of America is a classic example. Imagine these big books spread out on tables in wood-paneled private libraries.
The Kafirs Illustrated: A Facsimile Reprint of the Original 1849 Edition of Hand-coloured Lithographs
George French Angas; with a new introduction by Frank R. Bradlow
Cape Town: A. A. Balkema, 1974
Denkmaeler aus Aegypten und Aethiopien: nach den Zeichnungen der von seiner Majestät dem Koenige von Preussen Friedrich Wilhelm IV nach diesen Ländern gesendeten und in den Jahren 1842-1845 ausgeführten wissenschaftlichen Expedition
Herausgegeben und erläutert von C. R. Lepsius
Berlin: Nicolaische Buchhandlung, 1849-1856