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Ben-Hur by Lew Wallace

The first edition of Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ by Lew Wallace was published in 1880 by Harper & Brothers in New York. It was published in blue cloth. It was later made into the 1959 movie starring Charlton Heston.

First Edition Points:

  • Published by Harper & Brothers
  • Date of 1880 on the title page
  • 6 word dedication on dedication page reading “To the Wife of My Youth”
    This was changed in 1884 to “To the Wife of My Youth Who Still Abides with Me”

Any copy without 1880 on the title page but with the six word dedication is a later printing but before 1884.
This does not mean they are second issues, it just means they are later printings.
Many of the copies offered as first editions, especially on Ebay, are not. But if you verify these points with the bookseller you can be sure you are getting the true first edition.

Value: Fine, about $1500, Very Good, about $500.

First Editions of this book on Abebooks





20 Responses to “Ben-Hur by Lew Wallace”

  1. 1
    Jan Wuebbels:

    The book I am trying to research is 1895. Linen cover. The only English writing is on the inside front page “Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1880, by Harper & Brothers, In the office of the Librarian of the Congress, at Washington. Copyright, 1895 by harper & Brothers” Otherwise the whole book is in German. There is a dedication and it is in German .For it’s age it is in very very good condition. No rips or tears and the spine and cover is unblimished. Can you help with a value?

  2. 2
    gutenburg:

    Jan:

    Here is a link to the current asking prices of German Editions on Abebooks:
    http://modernfirsteditions.net/abebooks/german-ben-hur

    I would disregard the price on the $300 one as I am sure it will never sell at that price. If it were mine I would price it at $20 in my shop but it might be worth a little more.

  3. 3
    ROBERT BROWN:

    I HAVE A COPY OF BEN HUR BOUND IN ORANGE SILK WITH GOLD EMBOSSING. THE TITLE PAGE DATE IS 1892. IT HAS DRAWINGS ON EVERY PAGE AND PICTURES THROUGHOUT. THE BINDING AND PAGES ARE IN EXCELLENT CONDITIONS. HOWEVER, THE SILK ON THE BINDING IS SHOWING WEAR ON THE BOTTOM HALF. CAN YOU HELP ME ASSIGN A VALUE TO THIS COPY. I HAVE NOT BEEN ABLE TO FIND A COPY WITH ORANGE SILK COVERS. gobob@stanfordalumni.org

  4. 4
    gutenburg:

    Robert:

    The 1892 silk edition has two volumes and here is a link to the current prices:
    http://modernfirsteditions.net/abebooks/ben-hur-silk

  5. 5
    Chris Campbell:

    I need your help with the definition of ‘title page’. My Ben-Hur does not mention a date on the front of the title page where you can find ‘Ben-Hur A Tale of The Christ..etc., but on the BACK of that same page it reads: ‘Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1880, by Harper & Brothers, In the office of…. (etc). On the dedication page it includes..”who still abides with me”. Is this, therefore, a first edition but a later printing? (yet an unknown year between 1884 and 1890)?
    thanks so much for your help.

  6. 6
    rlike33:

    Hello- I have found a British Edition of Ben Hur that has a blue cover with a floral embossed decoration colored in gold, red and green. At the bottom right hand side of the cover is a picture of a golden rainbow arcing over a landscape and it says “The Rainbow Library”. The publisher is Richard Edward King and there’s an illustration inside by an artist named “Maginaugh” (not 100% on the spelling of the artist’s name, a little hard to read it)….anyway I’ve looked at at least 75 versions of Ben Hur online and can’t seem to find this particular one. Somebody wrote an inscription inside of it dated 1903 so it’s definitely and older version. Lew Wallace has this version inscribed with “To the Wife of My Youth”. Any help on this would be appreciated, thanks so much! rlike33@bellsouth.net

  7. 7
    Rodney Gage:

    Do you know of anyone interested in selling one first edition, first print edition of Ben-Hur? If so, please contact me at my aformentioned email address.

  8. 8
    gutenburg:

    Check the following link:
    http://www.abebooks.com/servlet/SearchResults?bi=0&bx=off&ds=30&kn=richard+king&recentlyadded=all&sortby=17&sts=t&tn=ben+hur&x=0&y=0

    I think this is a later printing of the British Edition. At the time publishers would issue books in a variety of bindings so I think your book is basically the same except with a different binding.

    It’s hard to say for sure though.

    I think if you were to sell it you might get $10.

    (reposted from email)

  9. 9
    Chris:

    I read what you said about a true first edition of Ben Hur by Lew Wallace;that it had the six word dedication. In addition,you mentioned how that was changed in 1884. However, I did not see a price for the 1884 printing. I’m sure it’s less than a first edition,but it must have some value,shouldn’t it? Please help me with this question. Thanks!

  10. 10
    gutenburg:

    Chris: The later printings that have the longer dedication are not really collectable. It might be worth $10 if you are lucky.

  11. 11
    joanne tolson:

    my Ben Hur is in a deep red bind with gold framed writing. i cant find a date .it has
    ,to the wife of my youth’ only.
    printed by walter scott, newcastle-on-tyne.
    is this of value?
    joanne

  12. 12
    gutenburg:

    Joanne:
    It is a reprint, probably printed sometime around the turn of the century in 1900. I would say it is probably worth $5 or $10. Not much.

  13. 13
    chewy:

    This is NOT the first edition according to http://www-personal.ksu.edu/~rcadams/first.html and that looks authoritative.

    thousands of people are trying to sell undated blue Sunburst copies from 1887-99 as first 1880 editions. they are not marked 1st ed. Many are undated, but cite the 1880 copyright, which fools and frauds list as being the publication date.

  14. 14
    Angie:

    I have a Ben hur book that has been in my family since it was published, but there is not a date or a dedication. It says “the Ruby Series” at the bottom of the cover and a girl wearing a dress and bonnet holding some papers are on the cover as well. It is a burgundy color with decorative floral print all over. On the title page is a quote by “Pope” but it doesn’t say which Pope. It also says George Routledge and Sons, Ltd, London Broadway House, Ludgate Hill. It is in good condition and printed by Motley press. Can you give me an idea of what it’s worth?

  15. 15
    Lyjhey:

    Hi, can you help me.. i have Benhur books with a facsimile letter of General James A Garfield.. is this have a value?.. Thanks a lot..

  16. 16
    Rick Flaim:

    I purchased a version of the book dated 1880 at an estate sale the cover is brownish red and the dedication reads “to the wife of my youth” 6 words but you mentions the cover should be blue, can you help me with this and thanks.

  17. 17
    gutenburg:

    Lyjhey: Probably not much value. This book was mass-produced at the time and only the first edition is really worth much.

  18. 18
    gutenburg:

    Rick: Does it have the 1880 date on the title page (not just the copyright page)? If so it is still a first edition even with the different color cover.

  19. 19
    gutenburg:

    Chewy: The 1880 date on the title page is what matters not a date on the copyright page. You are correct that most people are selling later printings as the first printing. However what I have written here is correct.

  20. 20
    gutenburg:

    Angie: Not much. At most a couple of dollars. There are thousands of copies of this book out there. Only the the true first edition is worth anything.

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