So many of the tropes we associate with the California Gold Rush come to us from Bret Harte’s pen. As the premier author of literature set in and around the Gold Rush, Harte’s influence on our view of it is undeniable. In fact, many of the facts we think we know about the California Gold Rush may come directly from Bert Harte’s imagination; he was famously accused of inventing the cant with which miners in his novels speak out of whole cloth. Be these things as they may, Harte’s strong and exciting prose and eye for detail continue to make him immensely popular and influential. Not only did he produce books, he also wrote poems and published these, along with his sketches, in newspapers; the variety of media in which he was published may be of interest to collectors.
One of Harte’s best-known publication was as poem called “Plain Language from Truthful James,” later retitled “The Heathen Chinee.” Although it was intended as an anti-racist poem, the subtlety of the message was lost on most readers who took it up as license to discriminate against Chinese immigrants. The poem was widely published in newspapers as well as republished versions that often included illustrations.
First editions of Harte’s best-known book, The Luck of Roaring Camp and Other Sketches (Fields, Osgood, and Co.: Boston, 1870), tend to be valued up to $1,500. Some editions sell for more if they are signed or otherwise notable.
Harte, Bret. Condensed Novels And Other Papers. G. W. Carleton and Co., New York (1867). Illustrated by Frank Belew
Harte, Bret. THE LOST GALLEON. Towne and Bacon, San Francisco (1867). And Other Tales; Engraved illustration by William Keith
Harte, Bret F. The Heathen Chinee. Western News, Chicago (1870). Consists of 9 loose cards, each illustrated by Joseph Hull
Harte, Bret. Poems. Fields, Osgood, and Co, Boston (1871). First Issue, with S.T.K. on page 136. A Johnson High Spot; Frontispiece and 7 other comic drawings inserted; CONTENTS: San Francisco, from the sea ; The angelus ; The mountain hearts-ease ; Grizzly ; Madron?o ; Coyote ; To a sea-bird ; Her letter ; Dickens in camp ; What the engines said ; The return of Belisarius ; Twenty years ; Fate -- In dialect. Jim ; Chiquita ; Dows flat ; In the tunnel ; Cicely ; Penelope ; Plain language from truthful James ; The society upon the Stanislaus -- Poems from 1860 to 1868. John Burns of Gettysburg ; The tale of a pony ; The miracle of Padre Junipero ; An Arctic vision ; To the Pliocene skull ; The ballad of the Emeu ; The aged stranger ; How are you, sanitary? ; The reveille ; Our privilege ; Relieving guard -- Parodies. A geological madrigal ; The willows ; North Beach ; The lost tails of Miletus.
Harte, Bret. An Episode At Fiddletown. Routledge, London (1873). and Other Sketches; With a Memoir; Authors Copyright Edition.
Harte, Bret. Tales of the Argonauts. James R. Osgood, Boston (1875). and Other Sketches.
Harte, Bret. Excelsior. Donaldson Bros., New York (1877). Presented by Enoch Morgans Sons Co; The rear wrapper of this copy lists 14 depots, but copies exist with 10 listed (which likely precede), as well as 18 (which are later).
Harte, Bret. West Point Tic-Tacs. Homer Lee and Co., New York (1878). A Collection of Military Verse Together with the Special Poem Cadet Grey by Bret Harte; Illustrated by Thomas Nast and other artists.
Harte, Bret. ON THE FRONTIER. Longmans, Green, and Co., London (1884). 1. At The Mission of San Carmel. 2. A Blue Grass Penelope. 3. Left Out on Lone Star Mountain
Harte, Bret. The Queen of the Pirate Isle. Chatto and Windus, London (1886). Illustrated by Kate Greenaway; engraved and printed in colors by Edmund Evans. First Greenaway edition.
Harte, Bret. The Queen of Pirate Isle. Houghton, Mifflin and Co., Boston (1887). With color frontispiece and 27 color text illusrations by Kate Greenaway; Printed in colour by Edmund Evans
Harte, Bret. Heritage of Dedlow Marsh. Macmillan, London (1889). and Other Tales; 2 volumes; Four long stories with California settings
Harte, Bret. COLONEL STARBOTTLES CLIENT. Houghton, Mifflin, Boston (1892). and Some Other People.
Harte, Bret. The Writings of Bret Harte. Houghton Mifflin and Co. Riverside Press, Boston (1896). 21 volumes; Photogravure frontispieces, vignette titles, and plates, after drawings and paintings by Frederic Remington, Alice Barber Stephens, W.L. Taylor, E. Boyd Smith, B. West Clinedinst, Mary Hallock Foote, and others, all on India paper mounted; Limited to 350 numbered copies, signed by the author and dated Septem. 1896. in the first volume (The Life of Bret Harte is limited to 200 copies, unnumbered and unsigned); Each volume with at least one plate signed by the illustrator (the frontispiece of Volume V signed by Frederic Remington). Bret Harte (1836-1902); last volume is limited to 525 copies; first nineteen volumes, artists represented thus are Otto H. Bacher, Ethel I. Brown, J. M. Burns, B. West Clinedinst, T. de Thulstrup, Frederick Dielman, J. M. Flagg, Thomas Fogarty, Mary Hallock Foote (2), Malcolm Fraser (2), Arthur I. Keller (2), Orson Lowell (2), Frederick McCormick, Frank T. Merrill, Eric Pape, Frederic Remington, Guy Rose, E. Boyd Smith (3), Alice Barber Stephens (2), Seymour M. Stone, and W. L. Taylor.
Harte, Bret. The Writings of Bret Harte. Houghton Mifflin, Boston (1897). Autograph Edition; 21 volumes; 350 copies.
Harte, Bret. The Writings of Bret Harte. Houghton Mifflin, Boston (1914). 20 volumes; 350 copies; #1 Luck of Roaring Camp Etc. #2 Tales of the Argonauts, #3 The Story of a Mine Etc., #4 In the Carquinez Woods Etc., #5 Maruja Etc., #6 Crusade of the Excelsior Etc., #7 Cressy Etc., #8 A First Family of Taslara Etc. #9 A Waif of the Plains Etc. #10 In the Hollow of the Hills Etc. #11 Tahnkful Blossom Etc. #12 Poems a Drama #13 and 14 Gabriel Conroy #15 Three Partners Etc. #16 Ancestors on Peter Atherim Etc. #18 A Treasure of the Redwoods Etc.
Harte, Bret. Sketches of the Sixties. John Howell, San Francisco (1927). Being forgotten material now collected for the first time from The Californian 1864-67; Title-page designed by Edwin Grabhorn; Introduction by John Howell; 250 copies; 20 uncollected sketches, condensed novels, essays and criticisms by Bret Harte, 18 uncollected pieces by Mark Twain.
Harte, Bret. The Luck of Roaring Camp. Haddon Craftsmen, Camden (1941). 3 colour plates; Illustrated with Wood-cuts by Paul Honore; An Introductory Note by Richard Ellis; 1250 copies.
Harte, Bret. Millionaire of Rough-and-Ready. L-D Allen Press., Kentfield (1955). Printed throughout in 3 colors; Handset Bulmer type printed on all-rag Rives paper from France; 220 copies.