Sir Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe, published in 1819, is a historical novel set in twelfth century England. The story follows one of the remaining Saxon noble families at a time when the nobility was overwhelmingly Norman. It is set after the failure of the Third Crusade. The theme is one of reconciliation, the coming together of two societies to create a united whole. Besides Ivanhoe being immensely popular when published, it is credited with reviving significant interest in Romanticism and Medievalism. In addition, the modern-day conception of Robin Hood owes much to Ivanhoe, where Scott’s character Locksley (Robin Hood) is shown as a patriotic rebel with a keen sense of justice. While the general political events in the novel are based on fact, the book is mostly fictional, a romantic characterization of this part of English history.
Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832) was a Scottish historical novelist whose writing was extremely popular throughout the world during his lifetime, and largely remains so to this day. Many of his works remain significant in the Western Canon, including Rob Roy, Waverley and Kenilworth, in addition to Ivanhoe. In the early and mid parts of the 20th century Scott’s reputation suffered, though, like much of the over-reaction Modernism foisted upon us, the pendulum is swinging back in his favor. His influence is unquestionable; it can be legitimately claimed that Scott invented the modern historical novel.
Edward A. Wilson (1886-1970) is well known to collectors of Limited Editions Club books (LEC). He illustrated fifteen books for the LEC, beginning with Robinson Crusoe in 1930, followed by Green Mansions (1935), The Man Without a Country (1936), Anthony Adverse (1937), Treasure Island (1941), The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (1945), Westward Ho! (1947), The Seven Voyages of Sinbad the Sailor (1949), Ivanhoe (1951), Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1952), Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (1956), The Mysterious Island (1959), The Deerslayer (1961), Around the World in Eighty Days (1962) and A Journey to the Center of the Earth (1966). He was inducted into the Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame in 1962.
Ivanhoe is one of the few LEC’s that was published twice. Besides the 1951 edition shown below, the LEC also published Ivanhoe in 1940 with illustrations by Allen Lewis, printed by Edward Alonzo Miller at The Marchbanks Press. <Ed. Note: Have picked up the 1940 edition and so have included pictures from that below>.
About the 1951 LEC Edition
- Bound in decorated linen
- 14 full page and sixteen part page drawings (pen and dry-brush) by Edward A. Wilson, who also signs the edition
- Hand colored by Walter Fischer, using water color brush with stencils
- Printed by American Book-Stratford Press
- Introduction by Sir Walter Scott
- Paper by Curtis Paper Company
- Limited to 1500 copies
- 498 Pages, 6 1/8″ x 9 1/4″, Two Volumes
Pictures from the 1951 LEC Edition
About the 1940 LEC Edition
- Introduction by the author
- Designed and illustrated with linoleum cuts, by Allen Lewis
- Printed by Edward Alonzo Miller at The Marchbanks Press, New York
- Set in monotype Kennerley
- Worthy special paper
- Bound by Russell-Rutter Company, New York in silver pyroxylin cloth embossed to resemble chain mail, stamped in red
- Two volumes, 646 Pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/2 inches
Pictures from the 1940 LEC Edition
7 thoughts on “Ivanhoe, by Sir Walter Scott, Limited Editions Club Editions from 1951 and 1940”
I have two copies of Ivanhoe, 1940 edition, both Allen Lewis’s personal copies, one signed by him. He was my uncle, so i have many of his works, most sighed, including his personal copies of Ondine, both signed by him.
Fantastic work. You are right that Scott was and is a remarkable figure in world literature and has deservedly seen a revival in popularity of late.
Very interesting comparison, Chris. It’s difficult to compare the quality of the reproduction of the illustrations in the Easton reprint to the LEC originals, although I would expect the hand-colored illustrations to have greater color saturation and more “snap,” but the binding of the EP edition is certainly one of their very best, and this is one case where the leather binding (gorgeous, by the way) seems somehow more appropriate for the work than the tapestry-like cloth binding. Either edition would be a wonderful addition to any library.
I have the Heritage edition of the Wilson-illustrated Ivanhoe , and am very happy with it. I also have the earlier LEC version, and although I think the binding–in silver pyroxylin cloth embossed to resemble chain mail–is a masterful touch, the illustrations by Allen Lewis pale in comparison to Wilson’s. I’ll take some pictures and send them to you.
That would be great, I will add them. Maybe a picture of the Heritage cover also? Greedy asking, I know! 🙂
Hello Chris –
I have both versions of Ivanhoe in Fine condition. the earlier Ivanhoe is noted for its binding technique which simulates the chain mail worn by the knights of the time (reign of Richard !). Both are interesting designs with the Edward Wilson one probably winning on illustration and the earlier one winning on innovative cover design. Both versions appeal to collectors and lovers of the LEC.