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
Is this Grosset and Dunlap copy of The Shepherd of the Hills really a "signed" copy?
Click Here for Answer.
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 Richard
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
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
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
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.
|ou will ask, perhaps, of this story the
same old question: “Are
in the book real people? Does
shepherd live outside these pages?
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.
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.
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
July 6, 1907
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
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
zz. Pelican, paperback, 1992
Review of Book by Dr.
Joyce Kinkead Copyright 1979 by Joyce
Kinkead. Used by Permission.
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.
to Next Book, The Calling of Dan Matthews