Ben-Hur A Tale of the Christ (Inscribed first edition)
New York: Harper & Brothers, 1880.
New York: Harper & Brothers, 1880. First edition. Finely bound by the Bayntun bindery in full polished grey calf, with raised bands, gilt rules to the boards, decorative gilt to the spine compartments and turn-ins, gilt top edge. Marbled end papers. Bound with the original cloth covers at the rear (first issue grey cloth with floral patterns). Inscribed by the author in purple ink on the title page: "x x x x very truly, your friend, Lew. Wallace." Title page dated 1880 and dedication in the first state, reading "To the Wife of My Youth." A fine copy overall, rare in the first issue and inscribed by the author. Housed in a custom cloth slipcase.
"Betrayed by his best friend and enslaved by the Romans, Judah Ben-Hur seeks revenge but instead finds redemption through his encounters with Jesus. Generations have thrilled to the sacred destiny of the mighty charioteer Ben-Hur, whose enduring tale began as a best-selling 1880 novel that later inspired equally popular stage and film interpretations. Combining the appeal of a historical adventure with a heartfelt message of love and compassion, the story blends the visceral excitement of a quest for vengeance with the spiritual thrill of forgiveness" (Dover). Extensively researched by the author, who sought as much as possible to be accurate in his depictions of galleys, Roman slavery, and leper colonies, it has been admired as much by literary scholars and historians as it has been by readers. "Victorians who swore off novels because of their immoral influence eagerly picked up Ben-Hur--were even encouraged to by their pastors...the book made Lew Wallace a celebrity" (NEH). A former literature professor, President Garfield himself hailed Ben-Hur as a "beautiful and reverent book." Since its release, the novel has never been out of print, and it outsold every book with the exception of the Bible until the 1936 release of Gone with the Wind. It has been printed in over twenty languages, including Indonesian and Braille. For this contribution, Wallace is the only novelist honored at the National Statuary Hall of the U.S. Capitol. Fine (Item #5739)