The Master of Ballantrae, by Robert Louis Stevenson, Limited Editions Club, 1965

Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894) was a prolific writer producing many works of lasting value and immense entertainment.  Treasure IslandKidnapped, and Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde are extremely well known classics in the core of the Western CanonBesides these, he wrote numerous other popular and well thought of novels including The Black Arrow: A Tale of the Two Roses and The Master of Ballantrae; many short stories such as New Arabian Nights and The Beach of Falesá; a slew of travel writings such as The Silverado Squatters and Travels with a Donkey; and poetry, such as A Child’s Garden of Verses.  All of this, despite dying of a cerebral hemorrhage at the young age of 44.

Stevenson ranks among the 26 most translated authors in the world, and has had influence over a wide range of great twentieth century writers such as Jorge Luis BorgesErnest HemingwayRudyard KiplingVladimir Nabokov, and G. K. Chesterton.

The Master of Ballantrae: A Winter’s Tale, first published in 1889, follows the relationship between two brothers, Scottish Nobleman each, as their family is broken apart by the Jacobite rising of 1745. The brothers James Durie (the Master of Ballantrae) and his younger brother Henry Durie decide to join opposing sides, so that regardless if the rebels or the loyalists win, the family will retain their title and status. The story is set in Scotland, America, and India, with revenge and sacrifice as themes and adventure, action and mystery as the mechanisms that propels the story.

As for this edition, this is one of those books that you either like the design or you do not. As for myself, I am not a huge fan. The exterior is certainly different and appropriate to Scotland, but it just does not speak to me about the book itself.  The interior is clean, and sharp, with typically good Limited Editions Club (LEC) quality, but it just seems a bit drab (perhaps ‘plain’ being a better word) to me. I am of two minds on the illustrations. Sounds odd, but most of the illustrations in blue I enjoy, whereas those in red…not so much. Hard to explain, but see below and let me know if you agree.

Speaking of the illustrations, this was Lynd Ward’s eleventh time illustrating an LEC book. In total, he was to illustrate 13 LEC’s starting with The Cloister on the Hearth in 1932, and ending forty-three years later with On Conciliation with America, and Other Papers on the American Revolution in 1975. Ward (1905-1985) illustrated over 200 books in his career, and was best known for his woodcuts. He is one of the founders of the American graphic novel.

About the Edition

  • Made at the Press of A. Colish, Inc., Mt. Verson, N.Y.
  • Typography planned by Alvin Eisenman, using Bell typeface, 12 point, with four points of leading
  • 28 two color Lithographs drawn on stone by Lynd Ward, who also signs the edition
  • Introduction by Gladys Bronwyn Stern
  • Prints pulled by George C. Miller & Son, in New York
  • Laid paper was specially manufactured for the book by Curtis Paper Company of Newark, Delaware; titanium was added to the makings in order to obtain the highest degree of opacity
  • Bound in the tartan of the Black Watch (unco braw plaid), with a shelf back title gold-stamped on a black leather label by William F. Fortney at Russell-Rutter Company
  • 6 3/4″ x 10 3/8″, 360 pages
  • Limited to 1500 copies, mine is #330

Pictures

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The Master of Ballantrae, Limited Editions Club, Slipcase Spine
The Master of Ballantrae, Limited Editions Club, Cover and Spine
The Master of Ballantrae, Limited Editions Club, Frontispiece and Title Page
The Master of Ballantrae, Limited Editions Club, Sample Illustration #1 with Text
The Master of Ballantrae, Limited Editions Club, Sample Illustration #2 with Text
The Master of Ballantrae, Limited Editions Club, Sample Illustration #3 with Text
The Master of Ballantrae, Limited Editions Club, Sample Illustration #4 with Text
The Master of Ballantrae, Limited Editions Club, Sample Text
The Master of Ballantrae, Limited Editions Club, Colophon

2 thoughts on “The Master of Ballantrae, by Robert Louis Stevenson, Limited Editions Club, 1965

  1. Chris, we once again disagree. I particularly like LECs which use different and unusual materials as a binding. These include such favorites as Kenilworth, the Alhambra, Carmen, and this book, bound in the appropriate black watch plaid. I have little affinity toward LECs wth cover illustrations. Leave that to the Folio Society and their somewhat garish books.

    As to the story content, this is one of my favorite RLS books, even surpassing Kidnapped. With Scotland perhaps opting out of The United Kingdom in the near future, we are still seeing the ramifications of the revolution and the battle of Culloden where the British went through th aftermath battlefield bayoneting all, alive and dead alike.

    In his latter days as a swashbuckler, Errol Flynn starred in a movie based on “The Master ….” However, Hollywood didn’t stick to the story line, and it is not Flynn’s best effort such as was Captain Blood.

    I believe Lynn Ward to be the finest illustrator of historical novels which the Club employed. Regardless of the background color, Ward’s exemplary drawings set the mood for this book as his work did in The Count of Monte Cristo and For Whom the Bell Tolls.

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