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(Introduction)
1916, Eyes

1919, Shepherd
1924, Man
1924, Mine
1925, Son Father 
1925. Brian K
1926, Barb W
1928, Shepherd
(1928, Lights)
1930, Eyes
1935, When Man
1936,  Matthews
1936, The Mine
1936, Wild Brian
1937, West  Gold
1937, Out West
1937, Secret Vly
1937, Californian
1941, Shepherd
1949, Massacre
1959, Shep (TV)
1964, Shepherd

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E Clampus Vitus
Bittersweet
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2.  The Shepherd of the Hills


The Shepherd of the Hills, by Harold Bell Wright, dust jacket             

 

First Edition

Book Supply Company, 1907, burgundy cloth cover with rectangular illustration pasted to front, tan dust jacket.  The date at the bottom of the title page is in Roman numerals: MDCCCCVII.

Total sales: about 2,000,000

List of editions

  Value Guide


Is this Grosset and Dunlap copy of The Shepherd of the Hills really a "signed" copy?  

stamp04.jpg (8335 bytes)

Click Here for Answer.

Background

This Story of the Ozarks, set just outside Branson, Missouri, was Harold Bell Wright's test to see if he could write books people would buy. He could and they did. This book is often referred to as the first book of American fiction to sell one million copies. This is almost certainly not true. In fact, when I did some research to find out if it was true, I quickly realized that the statement itself is too vague to have any meaning. It is sort of like saying Mark McGuire was the first person to hit 70 home runs. That statement is obviously not true. You have to add a second parameter for it to have meaning, in that case 70 home runs in one regular season. 

When we say Harold Bell Wright was the first American to write a novel that sold a million copies, do we mean a million copies in one year? In five years? During the first run, or including reprints? More important, do we mean it was the first novel ever written that eventually achieved a million sales? If so, several books that were written long before The Shepherd of the Hills later reached a million sales. Or do we mean that of any novel written at any time The Shepherd of The Hills was the first to reach the million sales mark? We know that is not true because Charles M. Sheldon's In His Steps sold several million copies before Wright wrote anything. It is likely that several other books reached the million mark before The Shepherd of the Hills. In fact, according to the Book Supply Company catalogs, Wright's next novel, The Calling of Dan Matthews, reached the million mark before The Shepherd of the Hills.

But regardless of whether the The Shepherd of the Hills reached the million mark first, it is clear that the innovative marketing and amazing sales of this book not only launched one of the most stunning success stories in American writing history, but started a new era in book publishing. See Larry Tagg's book, Storyteller to America, for more details.

     The earliest pre-publication copies of The Shepherd of The Hills had an extra page tipped (glued on one edge) into the front of the book. (The text on the front of the dust jacket is very similar.) Each tipped-in page has a different serial number at the bottom. I used to assume no more than 1500 were printed, but then Dave Hadsell send me a photo of one numbered 1640. Perhaps they printed 1750 or 2000. They are all signed and dated on the same day--July 6, 1907.

Y

ou will ask, perhaps, of this story the
same old question:  “Are the characters
in the book real people?  Does the old
shepherd live outside these pages?   Is

there a real Sammy Lane and a young Matt?” You shall say.  To me, they are very, very real.  I seem, somehow, to have known them always.
   “And the places, too,” you will ask, “are they real?”  Somewhere in the Ozark Hills, you will find, if you care to look for them, a sheep ranch in a Mutton Hollow, a mill, a cave, and a Dewey Bald.  But you must see them all from a house that stands above the mists.
   The mountains are of God’s building; the forests, of His planting.  In no uncertain language they
speak their message and declare the laws of their Creator.  Of their strength and peace they will give to all who seek to know their teaching.  If in these pages you feel, ever so lightly, the touch of their Spirit or are moved, ever so little, by their call; if, indeed, you find here the “Trail that is, nobody knows, how old,” I shall have written not in vain.
Redlands, California Harold Bell Wright
   July 6, 1907

1279

Collecting

    All American first editions are by the Book Supply Company and look exactly like the illustrations above. No matter what date is or is not found in any particular copy, if it mentions A. L. Burt or Grosset and Dunlap it is a common reprint. To be a first edition it must have Book Supply Company on the title page and it must have the date in Roman numbers — MDCCCCVII. The first edition was also available in leather. As described above, two months before the regular publication date, BSC sent special copies of the book to book stores and editors, with an extra page "tipped" into the front of the book. Hodder and Stoughton published a British first edition. The book was reprinted many times by both A. L. Burt and Grosset and Dunlap, as well as by Nordiska, Saxon & Lindstrom, Thorndike, Appleton, Buccaneer, McClelland, Bantam Books [paperback], McCormick-Armstrong, and Blue Ribbon. Most of the early reprints carry no indication that they are not first editions. Recently the book has been re-published by Bethany, with the text "edited" [lightly fooled around with], by a Michael Phillips.

     First editions are not common, and fine or near mint first editions are very hard to find. Not only did most copies get passed from one person to another till they were nearly worn out, but the paint used for the lettering on the covers didn't stick very well, so even otherwise excellent copies have much of the lettering missing from the cover. First edition dust jackets are much harder to find than copies of Wright's scarcest book, To My Sons. Total sales by 1947 (Mott): 1,125,000. The later paperback edition added a few sales to that total. Wright's own royalty records indicate total sales of 1,091,309. The Shepherd of the Hills Farm has continued to sell hard-bound copies by Grosset and Dunlap. By the early 21st century sales had probably passed two million.

Notes for "Books and Collectibles" owners:

zz. Pelican, paperback, 1992

Review of Book by Dr. Joyce Kinkead  Copyright 1979 by Joyce Kinkead.  Used by Permission.  

 In order to understand Wright's novels which focus on the development of virtuous character, it is necessary to know the prevalent literary and cultural trends in America from about 1870 to 1926. George Santayana has described those trends as the genteel tradition. Wright was torn between the genteel way, learned from his mother and artist friends, and the harsh realities which he learned while living with his father. He chose the feminine perspective for use in his novels though he later was to be defeated by realism and naturalism as these ideas began to dominate American literature. While the influence of the genteel tradition characterized Wright's books, the sphere of aggressive enterprise permeated the writings of Horatio Alger, who wrote sentimental but capitalistic stories about his rags-to-riches characters. Wright concentrated primarily on the manners of his characters and their possible heroics. Thus, his characters are often idealized. Continue >>>>>

Go to Next Book, The Calling of Dan Matthews

 

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This Harold Bell Wright web site is written and produced by Gerry Chudleigh with the help of many friends.
Copyright © 2000-October, 2013 by Gerry Chudleigh
Last updated 10/01/13