Ben-Hur; A Tale of the Christ
New York: Harper & Brothers, 1892. Hardcover. Two volumes (complete), "The Garfield Edition", octavo size, a total of 854 pp., with wrappers and publisher's box. Fine / very good. Item #22052503
Lewis "Lew" Wallace (1827-1905) was an American Union general as well as author of this famous novel, "Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ". It was so well received upon publication that it surpassed "Uncle Tom's Cabin" (which, although many today believe fosters racism, at the time was seen as a powerful proponent for emancipation). Ben-Hur is considered by many to be "the most influential Christian book of the nineteenth century" (n.b., quote from "Ben-Hur: The Book That Shook the World" by Amu Lifton (2009), as cited by Wiki). According to the web site of Slate Magazine, it sold "perhaps as many as a million copies in its first three decades in print".
This set "The Garfield Edition", was named for President James Garfield who was assassinated in September of 1881, with this edition brought out in his honour. "President James A. Garfield, a former professor of literature, devoured it... stealing chapters between meetings. He woke at 5:30 one morning so he could finish it in bed. 'With this beautiful and reverent book you have lightened the burden of my daily life,' he wrote to Wallace later that same day. Ben-Hur's publisher, Harper & Brothers, soon produced a Garfield Edition, with the president’s letter reproduced as a foreword; the lavishly illustrated two-volume set sold for a then astronomical $30" (ibid).
This set is a stunning example in near-pristine condition, with the publisher's original box and wrappers. While copies can readily be found online, we see no copies (as of this writing) in this condition, with the box and wrappers.
___DESCRIPTION: Two volumes bound in bright orange silk, decorative border and lettering on the front boards in gilt, decoration and gilt lettering on the spines, top edges gilt, ten photo-gravures in each volume (including the frontis) each with lettered tissue guard, replete with black-and-white drawings for chapter head- and tail-pieces, as well as pictorial borders and in-text illustrations, which are on just about every page of text; octavo size (8 1/8" by 5 3/8"), continuously paginated thus: Vol. 1, [1-20] 21-438, Vol. 2, [439-454] 455-854. The wrappers are of plain tissue paper, the publisher's box covered with blue textured paper, lined with glossy blue paper (a shade more teal) with a teal ribbon lifter adhered to both sides of the box.
___CONDITION: Volumes fine overall, the orange cloth bright and clean other than a stray spot or two, the gilt lettering and decorations bright and unrubbed, the gilt top edges so clean they fairly glitter, straight corners without rubbing, strong, square text blocks with solid hinges, the interiors clean and bright (other than a few light spots of foxing), and the sole prior owner marking being a name written in a vintage hand with the date of Dec. 14 1892 beneath (this written on the front pastedown in both volumes); a very small (a few millimeters) piece of the orange cloth missing on the bottom of the turn-in of the back board for Vol. 2 and a miniscule chip from the rear pastedown of the same board. The wrappers solid very good, toned and somewhat foxed with several creases and overall edgewear, but all component parts present and attached; the box somewhat better than good, with overall light wear, some dustiness, and one seam split - however, still strong and sturdy.
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