Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back Portfolio, Plates 1-12 (1980)

The Empire Strikes Back Portfolio. Artwork by Ralph McQuarrie.

Published by Ballantine Books in 1980, Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back Portfolio contained 24 production and concept paintings by the film’s conceptual artist Ralph McQuarrie.

The Empire Strikes Back Portfolio, caption sheet
The Empire Strikes Back Portfolio, caption sheet

A portfolio set based on Star Wars was released by Ballantine in 1977 (click here for a closer look) and had quickly proved a bestseller, so another collection based on its sequel, and featuring McQuarrie’s concept artwork, was inevitable. The only difference between the two collections was the removal of the intrusive captions that had appeared on the Star Wars prints. For the Empire set the captions for each print were instead printed on a separate sheet that also included a brief biography of the artist.

The Empire Strikes Back Portfolio, back cover
The back of the wallet

Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back Portfolio contained 24 full-colour plates measuring 14 x 11 inches, and shipped in a sturdy fold-out cardboard envelope with a slot on the back to hold the set together. Each plate was printed on high quality paper stock that held the reproduction and colours well. The portfolio originally sold for $8.95, around $40 (or £25) when adjusted for inflation.

Most of the movie’s key scenes are represented in this collection: the Empire’s attack on Hoth, Luke’s arrival on Dagobah and the film’s finale on Cloud City. There are some great images in this first batch of prints – The AT-AK sequence looks terrific and Hoth looks suitably hostile and forbidding. Looking through these prints it’s particularly interesting to see how faithful the film is to McQuarrie’s vision.

Below are the first 12 plates – click on the images for larger versions. Plates 13-14 are here.

The Empire Strikes Back Portfolio, Plate 1. Artwork by Ralph McQuarrie

Plate 1

The Empire Strikes Back Portfolio, Plate 2. Artwork by Ralph McQuarrie

Plate 2

The Empire Strikes Back Portfolio, Plate 3. Artwork by Ralph McQuarrie

Plate 3

The Empire Strikes Back Portfolio, Plate 4. Artwork by Ralph McQuarrie

Plate 4

The Empire Strikes Back Portfolio, Plate 5. Artwork by Ralph McQuarrie

Plate 5

The Empire Strikes Back Portfolio, Plate 6. Artwork by Ralph McQuarrie

Plate 6

The Empire Strikes Back Portfolio, Plate 7. Artwork by Ralph McQuarrie

Plate 7

 The Empire Strikes Back Portfolio, Plate 8. Artwork by Ralph McQuarrie

Plate 8

The Empire Strikes Back Portfolio, Plate 9. Artwork by Ralph McQuarrie

Plate 9

The Empire Strikes Back Portfolio, Plate 10. Artwork by Ralph McQuarrie

Plate 10

The Empire Strikes Back Portfolio, Plate 11. Artwork by Ralph McQuarrie

Plate 11

The Empire Strikes Back Portfolio, Plate 12. Artwork by Ralph McQuarrie

Plate 12

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