Ballantine Adult Fantasy: William Morris

One of the most significant figures in the cultural life of Victorian England, William Morris (1834-1896) was everything from a poet, translator, and writer of medievalist fantasy, to a political activist, printer, champion of building preservation, and a renowned innovator in textile manufacturing and interior design. When Lin Carter oversaw the Ballantine Adult Fantasy line (1969-74), he brought many of Morris’ out-of-print fantasies back into print in affordable paperback editions.

Carter credited Morris with inventing the modern quest fantasy, and certainly the latter’s championing of Arthurian and medievalist forms in the modern novel established a precedent that would influence writers from J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, right down to those of the present era. When the Wood Beyond the World was reissued by Ballantine (one of four Morris titles in the BAF series, alongside The Well at World’s End, The Water of the Wondrous Isles, and The Sundering Flood), author and critic James Blish praised its evocation of the archaic rhythms of Thomas Malory “all the way down to the marginal glosses and the nonstop compound sentences hitched together with scores of semicolons. [Morris] also recaptured much of the poetry; and if the reader will make the small effort necessary to accommodate himself to the rhythm of the style, he will find both it and the story rewarding.”

All of Morris’ Ballantine reprints feature wrap-around covers from one of the series’ most memorable and ubiquitous artists, Gervasio Gallardo, whose style wouldn’t feel out of place in a medieval manuscript or a gallery of modern art.

Had the series continued, Carter planned at least four more Morris reprints for future years (Child Christopher and Goldilind the Fair, The Roots of the Mountains, A Tale of the House of the Wolfings and All the Kindreds of the Mark, and The Story of the Glittering Plain). However, these works were reprinted in the UK by the Newcastle Forgotten Fantasy Library between 1973-80).

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