Ballantyne’s Novelist’s Library. The Novels of Henry Fielding, Esq.; Tobias Smollett, M.D.; Le Sage, and Charles Johnstone; Sterne, Goldsmith, Dr Johnson, Mackenzie, Horace Walpole, and Clara Reeve; Samuel Richardson, Esq.; Swift, Bage, and Cumberland; Mrs Ann Radcliffe.

  • (Novels)
  • London: Published by Hurst, Robinson, and Co., Printed by James Ballantyne and Company, at the Border Press 1821


SKU: 4516 Category: Tags: , ,


10 vols, 8vo, pp. xv, [i], xxviii, 794; xii, xlii, 684; x, 721, [1]; xviii, xxxvii, [i], 841, [1]; viii, lxxxvii, [i], 659, [1]; xxv, [i], xlviii, 728; xix, [i], 786; xxii, 791, [1]; [iv], v, [i], lxx, 776; [vi], xxxix, 764. Contemporary biscuit calf, boards bordered with a blind roll inside a double gilt rule, spines divided by wide raised bands, green and red morocco labels (‘Ballantyne’s Novelists’ and a vol. number on green, a list of titles in each vol. on red), other compartments with central flower tools within corner sprays all gilt, marbled edges and endpapers. A little minor spotting. Bindings rubbed, extremities worn, several joints splitting (but all sound). Armorial bookplates of Alexander Grant to front pastedowns, over that of James Webster, small bookseller’s stamp of Williams Library Cheltenham to verso of flyleaves.


A complete set of 'Ballantyne's Novelist's Library', a commercially unsuccessful but critically important step in the development of the canon of English prose fiction. Following a suggestion by John Murray and the production of Barbauld's 'The British Novelists' of 1810, Walter Scott had considered the possibility of a compilation of novels but did not formally initiate the project until his friend and business partner John Ballantyne was on his deathbed a decade later. Unlike Barbauld's project, which had selected individual novels of merit, Scott put the authors front and centre, reprinting the majority of the works of Fielding, Smollett, Richardson, Radcliffe, etc. - plus a few miscellaneous inclusions.
Scott further contributed prefatory essays for each of the 15 authors, bringing the model of Johnson's Lives of the Poets to the newer literary form. Later collected as The Lives of the Novelists, they form 'one of the most important bodies of novel criticism in English' (Corman, Women Novelists before Jane Austen, p. 39) - or at the very least, a significant early contribution to the treatment of the novel as worthy of criticism. The 'Library' petered out after 10 volumes due to slow sales and the loss of John Ballantyne's support after his death in 1821 - some also thought the small, double-column type an obstacle to success - and is now scarce to find complete.

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