This is Harold Bell Wright's Pilgrim's Progress-type allegory, with illustrations by
John Rea Neill, well-known for his
illustrations in Frank L. Baum's children's books, including the Oz books.
The Uncrowned King can be read in 45
minutes or less. On May 4, 1910, Harold Bell Wright wrote a letter to E.W. Reynolds, his
publisher. The letter is currently in the University of California Los
Angeles special collection. The relevant paragraphs read (M.S.=manuscript):
is my birthday and I have just put the finishing touch to "the
Uncrowned King." I am sending the M.S. to
you by express this afternoon. I have a carbon copy which I will
put in the bank here.
Also I am sending with the working copy, the
autograph M.S. thinking that as this story is dedicated to you
you might care to have it written in my own hand. Bound with the
copy in my hand is one of the typewritten copies just as I worked
it over. There were several more copies but this is all you will
care for and the others are destroyed.
I feel that I should say just a word about this
story Mr. Reynolds, along the lines we talked when you were here. I have given more care to this M.S.
than to anything I have ever done. Hours and hours I have spent hunting words and
I think I can say that every word from beginning to end is used as it is
the only word that will say just what I want. This simple a story is so
different from anything else and so much depends upon just the shade of
meaning and upon the suggestive value of words that I must urge that your
editors let my words stand. I must by all means read proof with you on
this, for there are so many places where a single word changed, added or
deleted, will ruin utterly the effect.
I will leave Redlands for Kansas City
Saturday. Write me there please for I will be, as always, anxious
to know how the story strikes you. . .
(Handwriting simulated. If you
don't see handwriting you should install Lucinda Handwriting font on
In 1916, in his biographical brochure, Harold Bell Wright, A
Biography Intimate and Authoritative, Elsbery W. Reynolds, Wright's
|"'The Uncrowned King,' a small volume--an
allegory--published in 1910, to me, is one of the most delightful of
Mr. Wright's books. Possibly, it has an added charm because of
certain peculiar conditions. It was written in Redlands,
California, during the winter of 1909-10, although the notion for
the little volume occurred to the author while living in Kansas
City. It was one of those times when the longing and the will
to do a work greater than the physical would permit seemed almost
overpowering when, unconsciously coming to his aid, a young woman
talking to a company of Christian Endeavorers chanced to remark,
"After all, the real kings of earth are seldom
crowned." All through the evening service thoughts that
this inspired kept running through the author's mind and late that
same night he wrote the outline which was only completed some years
later and given to his publishers to enrich the world."
All American first editions are by the Book
Supply Company and look exactly like the illustrations above. The first
edition was also available in red leather. The Book Supply Company
reprinted the book several times, always in green cloth, though the shades of
green vary widely, one being more gray than green.
Many of the early reprints carry no indication that they are not first editions.
The book was also reprinted several times by Appleton, and perhaps once by
Buccaneer, though I have never seen a Buccaneer edition.
In the UCLA library is a pre-publication copy of The Uncrowned
King with a paper pasted inside, "Vital Facts For Every Bookseller." One
paragraph reads: "The Uncrowned King is a Christmas classic and will be the
gift book of the year. Advance sales are larger than any
book ever published at a similar price. First Edition--100,000 copies."
The Book Supply Company catalogs of 1919 and 1921 both say that 250,000 copied
had been sold.
But there is good evidence that neither claim is true. In 1932
HBW had his accountants prepare a summary of the numbers of books sold since
1903. That list reports that 109,963 copies of The Uncrowned King had been sold,
producing for Wright royalties of $7,315.19.
This means the book is somewhat more scarce than his most
common titles. These books were evidently not passed around much nor read
as often as some other titles, because many are in excellent or near mint
So far I have seen no proof of what kind of dust jacket came on
this book. But some dealers such as Jerry Flockstra in Springfield, Missouri, say
they have seen several with clear glassine covers like the one pictured at
left above. I believe that is what came on this title. Some of the later green editions came with a
very light tan paper
dust jacket, with lettering and
design on the front exactly like the lettering and design on the burgundy cloth covers. There
are two difficulties with proving what dust jacket, if any, came on this
title. First, glassine dust jackets don't have any marking, so there is no way
of knowing for sure that a glassine jacket is original on any particular book. Second, if
a red copy occasionally shows up with a tan dust jacket, there is no way to know it
was not transferred from a green book. One red edition was offered on eBay
with a tan paper dust jacket, but the dust jacket turned out to be a
reproduction. Without finding the publisher's records, or some other contemporary description, we may never know for
sure. [By the way, the glassine dust jacket pictured above was transferred
from its original place on a Zane Grey book.]
Notes for Owners of "Books and
You may read the entire copy of The Uncrowned King on the internet.
of Book by Dr. Joyce Kinkead. Copyright 1979 by Joyce
Kinkead. Used by permission.
an allegory published in 1910 as a Christmas book, provides yet another argument
for the unification of the church. In
this small volume similar to Pilgrim's Progress, the Pilgrim, following
the Law of the Pilgrimage, travels over the Desert of Fact successfully until he
reaches the Outer-Edge-Of-Things and the Beautiful Sea.