When researching the diverse and rich history of fine art printing, we find that again and again that the early printing presses were lynchpins of a vibrant regional community of artists, authors, and intelligentsia. Just as the Arts and Craft Movement of William Morris was inspired (in part) by home printing, unifying London artists, typographers and poets – and in America the New England presses became the locus for political reformists; the same can be said of any of the early presses.
The Ballantyne Press fits this model; but only just, as the Press skated over controversy and financial ruin many times in its fairly short-lived career, and yet somehow managed to remain one of the most influential or early modern Presses in northern Britain (1810-1911).
The Ballantyne Press was originally the passion of brothers James and John Ballantyne, born in the town of Kelso on the Scottish Borders. The older brother James had worked as a reporter and printer for the Kelso Mail, and was the first of the Ballantyne brothers to meet Walter Scott, and thus begin their life-long collaboration with the author.
Walter Scott helped the Ballantyne brothers set up their private printing firm, providing them with capital funding as well as contacts in his elite social circles, securing for the small Scottish company contracts publishing religious and court documents as well as his own fiction. Unfortunately for the Ballantynes, Walter Scott was already in a legal arrangement with the well-known publisher of his day, Archibald Constable – and apart from the Waverly series of novels, he had little success which could match his profligate lifestyle.
Despite constant threat of financial ruin, and heated negotiations as the Ballantyne Press were forced to sell the rights of Scott’s work to Constable; the Ballantyne Press garnered a reputation as an exemplary fine art publisher. They produced such compendium works as the Bible, the Apocrypha, and several editions for Shakespeare’s plays as well as smaller monographs on Scottish Borders life, culture, and history. Today, the finest of these editions, with the specially-commissioned woodcut prints and unique type-setting style can fest a few thousand dollars, thanks to their rarity and history.
The Ballantyne Press was passed on to James’ son John Alexander Ballantyne in 1833, and from there had steady and moderate success with limited editions, although it never managed to escape the shadow of Walter Scott’s financial depredations. The sad fact about the Ballantyne Press was that its long business career shows a repeated mismanagement and poor financial negotiations, which prevented an otherwise very fine press from expanding and becoming one of the most important early modern presses in British history.
For the collector of the Ballantyne Press, its scandalous history, filled with larger-than-life authors and warring publishers makes for an excellent collection – although Ballantyne Press editions of Scott themselves are rare. It would perhaps be more advisable to focus on the smaller, more unique works that the early Ballantyne Press produced, such as its ‘Dictionary of Slang, Jargon and Irregular Phraseology’ available for just a few hundred US dollars.
Scott, Sir Walter. Minstrelsy Of The Scottish Border. Ballantyne (1803). Consisting Of Historical And Romantic Ballads, Collected In The Southern Counties Of Scotland; With A Few Of Modern Days, Founded Upon Local Tradition.; 2 Volumes compiled by Sir W. Scott: Kelso,
Beattie, James. The Minstrel. Ballantyne (1803). Or, The Progress Of Genius. With Some Other Poems. engraved frontispiece portrait
Scott, Sir Walter. Sir Tristrem. Ballantyne (1804). A Metrical Romance Of The Thirteenth Century; By Thomas Of Ercildoune, Called The Rhymer. Edited From The Auchinleck
Douglas, M. The Life Of Professor Gellert. Ballantyne (1805). With A Course Of Moral Lessons, Delivered By Him In The University Of Leipsick; Taken From A French Translation Of The Original German. Three vols; Kelso: printed by Alex.
Bruce, James. Travels To Discover The Source Of The Nile. Ballantyne (1805). Portrait frontispiece; 79 plates, 3 large folding maps.
Bannatyne, Richard. Journal Of The Transactions In Scotland,. Ballantyne (1806). During The Contest Between The Adherents Of Queen Mary, And Those Of Her Son, 1570, 1571, 1572, 1573 By Richard Bannatyne, Secretary To John Knox.
Selkirk, Thomas Douglas. Observations Of The Present State Of The Highlands Of Scotland. Ballantyne (1806). With A View Of The Causes And Possible Consequences Of Imigration; For A. Constanable and Co. Edinburgh; and Longman, Hurst, Rees, and Orme, London
Junius. Junius, Stat Nominis Umbra. Ballantyne (1807). 12 engraved portraits
Hogg, James. The Mountain Bard:. Ballantyne (1807). Consisting Of Ballads And Songs Founded On Facts And Legendary Tales By James Hogg, The Ettrick Shepherd
Hogg, James. The Shepherds Guide. Ballantyne (1807). Being A Practical Treatise On The Diseases Of Sheep, Their Causes, And The Best Means Of Preventing Them; With Observations On The Most Suitable Farm-Stocking For The Various Climates Of This Country
Scott, Walter. Marmion. Ballantyne (1808). A Tale Of Flodden Field. 2000 copies; for Archibald Constable and Co., Edinburgh; and William Miller, and John Murray, London, 1808.
Cary, Robert. Memoirs Of Robert Cary. Ballantyne (1808). Earl Of Monmouth Written By Himself. And Fragmenta Regalia Being A History Of Queen Elizabeths Favourites, With Explanatory Notes.
Hamilton, Elizabeth. The Cottagers Of Glenburnie. Ballantyne (1808). A Tale For The Farmers Inglenook.
Ramsay, Allan. The Gentle Shepherd. Ballantyne (1808). A Pastoral Comedy. To Which Is Prefixed A New Biographical Memoir Of The Author, And A Critique On His Writings. With A Head, And Twelve Beautiful Characteristic Engravings, From Original Designs By Allan; And A Full And Correct Gloss; 13 aquatint plates, including frontis. portrait, by David Allan.
Scott, Walter. The Life Of John Dryden. Ballantyne (1808). fifty copies; Engraved frontispiece portrait
Scott, Walter. The Lady Of The Lake. Ballantyne (1810). Engraved frontispiece portrait by Heath after Saxon; 2000 copies
A View Of The State Of Parties In The United States Of America. Ballantyne (1812). Being An Attempt To Account For The Present Ascendancy Of The Anti-English, Or Democratic Party, In That Country; In Two Letters To A Friend. By A Gentleman Who Has Recently Visited The
Weber, Henry. Popular Romances Consisting Of Imaginary Voyages And Travels. Ballantyne (1812). Contains : Gullivers Travels - Jonathan Swift, Journey to the World Under Ground - Nicholas Klimius, The Life and Adventures of Peter Wilkins, A Cornish Man - By R.S., The Life and Adventures of Robinson Crusoe - Daniel Defoe, The History of Automathes.
Smith, Horace. Horace In London. Ballantyne (1813). Consisting Of Imitations Of The First Two Books Of The Odes Of Horace. By The Authors Of Rejected Addresses, Or The New Theatrum Poetarum.
Montgomery, James. The Wanderer In Switzerland. Ballantyne (1813). WITH A FINE CONTEMPORARY FORE-EDGE PAINTING of a ruined mansion.
Weber, Henry. Illustrations Of Northern Antiquities. Ballantyne (1814). From The Earlier Teutonic And Scandinavian Romances
Scott, Sir Walter. Guy Mannering, Or The Astrologer. Ballantyne (1815). Three volumes; for Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown London, and Archibald Constable and Co , Edinburgh
Scott, Sir Walter. The Abbot. Ballantyne (1820). Edinburgh: Printed for Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown, London; and for Archibald Constable and Company, and John
Scott, Walter. Minstrelsy Of The Scottish Borde. Ballantyne (1821). Consisting Of Historical And Romantic Ballads Collected In The Southern Counties Of Scotland, With A Few Of Modern Date, Founded Upon Local Tradition. Fifth Edition. Edinburgh
Pollock, Robert. The Course Of Time. Ballantyne (1828). for William Blackwood, and T. Cadell, 1828, Edinburgh
Scott, Sir Walter. Tales Of A Grandfather. Ballantyne (1829). Being Stories From The History Of Scotland; Signed By Sir Walter Scott;Three volumes; Printed for Cadell and Co.
Scott, Waltor. Trial Of Duncan Terig Alias Clerk. Ballantyne (1831). And Alexander Bane Macdonald, For The Murder Of Arthur Davis, Sergeant In General Guises Regiment Of Foot.
Barrare, Albert. A Dictionary Of Slang, Jargon and Cant.. Ballantyne (1889). Embracing English, American, And Anglo-Indian Slang, Pidgin English, Tinkers Jargon And Other Irregular Phraseology. Volume I and II;675 copies
Marlowe, Christopher. Hero And Leander. Ballantyne (1894). Illustrated with woodcuts by Charles Ricketts and Charles Shannon Limited to 220 copies.
Campion, Thomas. Fifty Songs. Ballantyne (1896). edition limited to 210 copies; Woodcut border and decorative initials by Charles Ricketts.
Shakespeare, William. The Passionate Pilgrim and The Songs In Shakespeares Plays. Ballantyne (1896). 310 copies; Edited by T. Sturge Moore and decorated with a picture and border designed and cut on the wood by Charles Ricketts.
Apuleius. The Excellent Narration Of The Marriage Of Cupide And Psyches. Ballantyne (1897). ranslated Out Of The Latine Into English By William Adlington. Initial letters and vignettes designed and engraved by Charles Ricketts; edition limited to 210 copies
Vaughan, Henry. Vaughans Sacred Poems. Ballantyne (1897). 210 copies; Charles Ricketts frontispiece and design title-page with borders
Leary, Frederick. The Earl Of Chester's Regiment Of Yeomanry Cavalry. Ballantyne (1898). Its Formation And Services 1797 To 1897.
Browning, Robert. Dramatic Romances And Lyrics. Ballantyne (1899). 210 copies; Decorated With Woodcut Border And Initials By Charles Ricketts
Rossetti, Dante Gabriel. Hand And Soul. Ballantyne (1899). Woodcut decoration by Ricketts.
Tennyson, Alfred Lord. In Memoriam And Lyric Poems. Ballantyne (1900). Decorated woth border designs by Charles Ricketts.
Tennyson, Alfred Lord. Tennysons In Memoriam; And, Tennysons Lyric Poems, Two Volumes In Slipcase. Ballantyne (1900). Seen through the Press by C. J. Holmes, and Decorated with Border Designed by C. S. Ricketts, and Engraved by C. E. Keates
The Collected Shakespeare.. Ballantyne (1900). Thirty-nine volumes 310 sets.
Shakespeare, William. The Tragedy Of Antony And Cleopatra. Ballantyne (1900). edited and designed by T. Sturge Moore and decorated by Charles Ricketts.
Shakespeare, William. The Tragedy Of Julius Caesar. Ballantyne (1900). edited by T. Struge Moore and decorated by Charles Ricketts.
Shakespeare, William. Timon Of Athens. Ballantyne (1900). designed by T. Sturge Moore and decorated by Charles Ricketts.
Shakespeare, William. Alls Well That Ends Well. Ballantyne (1901). designed by Charles Ricketts under the editorship of T. Sturge Moore,
Shakespeare, William. The Lamentable Tragedy Of Titus Andronicus. Ballantyne (1901). supervised by T. Sturge Moore and designed by Charles Ricketts.
Field, Michael. The Race Of Leaves. Ballantyne (1901). 280 copies illustrated By Ricketts
Shakespeare, William. Twelfth Night, Or What You Will. Ballantyne (1901). edited by T. Sturge Moore and designed/decorated by Charles Ricketts
Shakespeare, William. Two Gentlemen Of Verona. Ballantyne (1901). designed by Charles Ricketts under the editorship of T. Sturge Moore,
Ecclesiastes Or The Preacher. Ballantyne (1902). and The Song Of Solomon;Limited Edition of 300 copies
Wordsworth, William. Poems. Ballantyne (1902). six woodcuts by T Sturge Moore; 310 copies
Ruskin, John. Unto This Last. Ballantyne (1902). 400 copies,.
Moore, T. Sturge. Danae. Ballantyne (1903). three full page woodcut illustrations by Charles Ricketts; 230 copies
James I. The Kingis Quair. Ballantyne (1903). Limited edition of 260 copies
Shakespeare, William. The Life Of King Henry V. Ballantyne (1903). designed by Charles Ricketts under the editorship of T. Sturge Moore,
Irvine, Wm Fergusson. A Short History Of The Township Of Rivington In The County Of Lancaster,. Ballantyne (1904). With Some Account Of The Church And Grammar School
The Holy Bible. Ballantyne (1910). 3 volumes
Medici, Lorenzo De. Poesie Volgari. Ballantyne (1912). 2 Volumes 400 copies
James, M.R. Abbeys. Ballantyne (1925). With An Additional Chapter On Monastic Life And Buildings By A. Hamilton Thompson. With 100 Illustrations By Photographic Reproduction, 56 Drawings, 13 Plans, 7 Colour Plates And Map.