This novel appeared in 1880, and very quickly became considered "the most influential Christian book of the nineteenth century", surpassing even Harriet Beecher Stowe's "Uncle Tom's Cabin" (1852) in sales. It inspired other novels with biblical settings and was adapted for both stage and film. It remained at the top of the US all-time bestseller list until the publication of Margaret Mitchell's "Gone with the Wind" (1936). The story recounts the adventures of Judah Ben-Hur, a Jewish prince from Jerusalem, who is enslaved by the Romans at the beginning of the 1st century and becomes a charioteer and a Christian. In parallel with this narrative is the unfolding story of Jesus, from the same region and of much the same age. The novel deals with themes of betrayal, conviction, and redemption, with a revenge plot that leads to a story of love and compassion.
Lewis Wallace (1827–1905) was an American lawyer, Union general in the American Civil War, Governor of the New Mexico Territory, politician, diplomat, and author, from Indiana, best known for his historical adventure story, "Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ" (1880).
Our copy is in remarkably good general condition, considering its age (presumed 1888), bound in grey-blue cloth with a decorative panel on the front depicting two camel-riders in a townscape or encampment, with the book's title, author etc in black lettering enhanced with borders and floral illustrations. Similar decoration adorns the spine, the title being in blue lettering on a gilt panel, and publisher's emblem is imprinted on the back. The book is protected by a library-style plastic cover, and shows only minor external signs of wear (some bumping of corners, and a little shelfwear to top & bottom of the spine). The textblock edges are somewhat foxed, and there is a dark stain at the top. Inside, the front fep, half-title and title pages are all missing, and the book begins with the dedication page 'To the wife of my youth', which is browned, stained and somewhat foxed. Further in, there is more foxing on the first few pages, matched by similar on the final few. The pages otherwise are generally clean, if a little browned, but there are one or two neat pencilled notes on the first 30-odd pages. The binding is weak, but holding.