Ben-Hur

Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ 

Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ was written by an American author by the name of Lew Wallace, and originally published in 1880 by Harper & Brothers in New York. The novel is divided into eight sections, called books, with a different number of chapters in each book, and was bound in an octavo, identifiable by signatures of a number at the bottom of every sixteenth page. The story itself resulted in it being one of the most sold books in the 20th century, only second to the Bible until the publication of Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell (Lifson). The book recounts the story of a Jewish prince in Jerusalem that is enslaved by the Romans, eventually freed, and converts to Christianity, but it is also parallel with the story of Jesus from the same region. While there was no way for readers to know the summary of the book, as there isn’t one offered in the book, Christians would know it involves Jesus Christ because of the title, and those that are of different religions and/or unfamiliar with Christianity could gain an idea of the importance of Christ by seeing how ornamented the book is. The gold decorations may indicate the importance of the story to one that may not be familiar with Christianity. The outside binding of the book can also give this sense. The outer binding is a tan shade of leather, and, on the spine, the words ‘Ben-Hur’ and ‘Lew Wallace’ are inscribed in gold. The spine is made up of six divided sections with rugged edges, with the first, third, fifth, and sixth sections having the same gold pattern, and the second and fourth having the title and author. By being bound in leather and having gold on the side, these alluring features can draw more readers in to buy the book, particularly those of the aristocracy, because the book looks to be re-binded to appeal to that audience, as well as the Christian one. 

As of now, by using Galileo to search, there are 303 locations worldwide that claim to hold the first edition copy of Ben-Hur. Most are located in universities. Some are religious institutions which is understandble considering the book includes Christianity and Judaism, and one is in the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.