The Hornblower Set 1: Mr Hornblower

Mr Midshipman Hornblower, Lieutenant Hornblower and Hornblower and the Hotspur

C. S. Forester

Illustrated by Joe McLaren

Introduced by Bernard Cornwell

A handsome new Folio series introduces Horatio Hornblower, C. S. Forester’s brilliant Royal Navy hero of the Napoleonic Wars, lavishly illustrated by Joe McLaren and introduced by longtime admirer Bernard Cornwell.


Thrilling sea chases and shrewd secret missions, character-forming duels and mutinous crews, the clash of cutlass against cutlass and the stifling heat of white-hot cannon shot: Cecil Scott Forester’s Hornblower Saga, which traces the career of his inimitable and much loved hero, Horatio Hornblower, captures all the excitement, danger and intrigue of life at sea as part of His Majesty’s Royal Navy during the Napoleonic Wars.

First introduced to readers as a junior Royal Navy captain in the 1937 title The Happy Return, Hornblower rose in successive novels and short stories to reach the pinnacle of his profession as Admiral of the Fleet Lord Hornblower. But Forester’s insatiable readership clamoured for yet more tales of Hornblower’s ingenuity and courage, so Forester went back to write of his hero’s humble beginnings. This new Folio series presents, for the first time, the complete novels and short stories of the young Mr Hornblower’s early career in chronological order, following his unpromising start as a seasick 17-year-old midshipman and his first challenges in independent command.   

These tales contain all the elements for which Forester was celebrated: masterful storytelling, finely drawn characters, authentic historical detail and a keen sense of humour. Forester’s particular talents earned him many imitators, from Patrick O’Brian and Dudley Pope, to the creators of Star Trek and Bernard Cornwell, whose introductions to these volumes explore how Forester’s storylines were influenced by historical events. 

Joe McLaren, working in consultation with Brian Lavery, former curator of Maritime History at the National Museum, Greenwich, has created a series of characterful chapter-head decorations and full-page illustrations that convey the drama and spirit of Hornblower’s sea exploits, as well as more intimate portraits and naval details. Each volume also includes a number of maps first published in 1964 under Forester’s guidance that chart Hornblower’s early voyages. Dynamic binding designs, printed endpapers and a blocked slipcase complete this handsome set, perfect for naval enthusiasts, or anyone who enjoys a gripping adventure story, masterfully told. 

Production details

Three-quarter bound in cloth with cloth front boards printed and blocked with designs by the artist

Set in Bulmer

1,016 pages in total

15 full-page black & white integrated illustrations, 5 chapter-head decorations and 13 maps across three volumes

Printed endpapers

Printed and blocked slipcase

Each volume is 9” x 5 ¾”

About Cecil Scott Forester

Cecil Scott Forester was born in Cairo to British parents in 1899. He studied medicine at Guy’s Hospital in London, but after leaving without a degree he turned to writing, and his first novel, Payment Deferred, was published in 1926. During the Second World War he worked for the British government writing propaganda to foster American support for Britain’s war effort, a post that took him to California, where he lived until his death in 1966. The author of more than fifty novels, Forester is best remembered for his series of twelve books and multiple short stories about Horatio Hornblower, an officer in the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic Wars. Two books in the series, A Ship of the Line and Flying Colours, were awarded the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for fiction in 1938.

About Bernard Cornwell

Bernard Cornwell, OBE, is a British author of historical novels. He studied at London University before joining the BBC, where he became the head of current affairs television in Northern Ireland. In 1979 he moved to the United States and pursued a writing career. Cornwell is best known for his Sharpe series (1981–2007), which traces the career of Richard Sharpe in the British Army during the Napoleonic Wars – a series directly inspired by C. S. Forester’s Hornblower novels. His other fiction titles include The Starbuck Chronicles (1993–6), The Warlord Chronicles (1995–7), The Grail Quest Series (2000–12), The Warrior Chronicles (2004– ), Azincourt (2008) and Fools and Mortals (2017).

About Joe McLaren

Joe McLaren graduated with a BA in Illustration at the University of Brighton in 2003. He has worked for many book publishers, including Penguin, Orion and HarperCollins, contributing illustrations for titles such as Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series and J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books. His work for The Folio Society includes artwork for titles by Anthony Burgess, William Cobbett and a host of historical writers. He is also known for his editorial work in the Times and WIRED magazine, among others. McLaren most often uses scraperboard to create his images, a late nineteenth-century invention prized for its deep contrast and distinctive texture.


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