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4.  The Uncrowned King

The Uncrowned King, by Harold Bell Wright, dust jacket The Uncrowned King, by Harold Bell Wright

First Edition

Book Supply Company, 10/1910, burgundy cloth cover, dust jacket was apparently "glassine"  (transparent paper) with no marking of any kind.  6.88" tall by 4.5" wide.

Totat sales: 109,963

List of editions

Value Guide



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):

This 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 your computer.)

In 1916, in his biographical brochure, Harold Bell Wright, A Biography Intimate and Authoritative, Elsbery W. Reynolds, Wright's Publisher wrote: 

"'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."

Collecting    Click here for complete list of editions.

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 condition.

Dust Jackets

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 Collectibles:

You may read the entire copy of The Uncrowned King on the internet.  (Click Here)

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

The Uncrowned King, 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.   Continue >>>

Your Questions and Suggestions are Welcome. Click here for Email Address.

This Harold Bell Wright web site is written and produced by Gerry Chudleigh with the help of many friends.
Copyright 2000-May, 2011 by Gerry Chudleigh
Last updated 05/26/11