Heritage Press – Tales of the Gold Rush by Bret Harte (1944)

August 18, 2013 Comments Off on Heritage Press – Tales of the Gold Rush by Bret Harte (1944)

Tales of the Gold Rush by Bret Harte (1944)
Sandglass Number X:31
Artwork: Illustrations by Fletcher Martin
Introduced by Oscar Lewis
Reprint of LEC #160/15th Series V. 8 in 1944

Click images for a larger view.


Front Binding – Bret Harte is a bit of a local legend where I live, as his Tales of the Gold Rush revolve around many areas near my home. The George Macy Company apparently enjoyed the tales of Harte, as they published a collection of his stories fairly early in the Limited Editions Club lifespan. This was the sole work of Harte’s issued. For the first Heritage reprint, they replicated a shiny chunk of the namesake metal for the boards, and put the pertinent text on the spine edge, which I think is quite classy. I recently acquired my own copy of the book (originally I had a library copy), so now I can expand on the design notes and update the photos to remove the library stamps and labels.

Fletcher Martin delivered his first of five commissions for the Company here. Next came Nordoff and Hall’s Mutiny on the Bounty in 1947. A significant gap ensued, with Martin returning in 1961 to illustrate Jack London’s The Sea Wolf. Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle followed in 1965, and if you can pick up the LEC, Sinclair signed it along with Martin! Last but not least was John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, issued in 1970 in the midst of the transition period into Cardevon Press’ tenure. Martin has a simple but emotive style that I think captures the rugged spirit of the three books I have with his art (this, Of Mice and Men and The Jungle).

Design notes: The name of the designer is curiously absent from the Sandglass. The LEC Letter states that that edition was designed in-house by Macy (thanks, Django6924!), so I will credit Mr. Macy as the Heritage designer as well. This was among the several replacements issued during the 1943-1944 Fifteenth Series, where chaos had thrown asunder many of Macy’s plans for this Series. Originally, The Faerie Queene, illustrated solely by John Austen, and All Men are Brothers, featuring Miguel Covarrubias, were slated for 1944, but both had to be delayed. Austen lived in an area Macy called “Hell’s Corner” at the time, and his original set of engravings were destroyed in one of the German raids. He specifies a “section of England”, which fellow devotee Huxley the Cat posits could be the Channel Islands, the only place the Nazis occupied in the British Isles. At any rate, Austen lost the work to the Germans somehow, and he never got the chance to finish the second attempt, as he passed away before their completion. Agnes Miller Parker stepped in to supplement Austen’s contribution. As for Covarrubias, as noted in the bonus letter I included in my Decameron post, he tended to take his sweet time on his commissions, and had essentially left Macy high and dry on this particular book well past the intended due date. Another setback was the death of Frederic Dorr Steele, noted artist of the Sherlock Holmes franchise. Macy asked Steele to revisit his great work for Doyle’s detective, and was getting on fairly well with forty redone pictures when sickness overwhelmed him, stealing him to the grave on July 7, 1944. Macy blames himself for this, which seems a little severe, but evidently Macy felt that his request may have been too much for Steele’s constitution. With three books (with the latter Holmes planned to be a five volume issuing over two months) missing in action, Macy scrambled to plug the gaps. This particular book was one of the plugs; Wendell L. Willkee’s One World was another (and probably one of the more eclectic choices ever released by the Club! Willkie’s claim to fame was as a politician, and a rather liberal one at that. Here’s his Wikipedia page. Willkee’s book was a travelogue of his time out meeting with Allied heads of state as Rossevelt’s “ambassador-at-large”, and the text also covered his meanderings with various citizens and soldiers in areas like Russia and Iran. Given Macy’s more conservative readership, I imagine that this one may not have been that popular!).

Anyway, back to this work. Waverly is the font of choice, with P.T. Barnum serving as the title font, Colonial for the initials and Bank Script serving as the “script lines”. Monadnock Paper Company supplied the paper, with William “Bill”  Fortney’s Russell-Rutter Company providing their binding services. French “marbled gold paper” covers the boards (mine has some nasty fingerprint problems, alas) with white linen covering the spine, stamped in mud-brown ink for the title, author and illustrator information.




Title Page – Martin’s artwork is colored in shades of yellow, brown and white, and work pretty well with the material, if you ask me. Noted Gold Rush historian Oscar Lewis offers an introduction to Harte’s tales.

Examples of the Illustrations by Martin (right click and open in new tab for full size):

Personal Notes – My good friend Lois gave me this book recently after a visit to Half Price Books in Fremont, CA (quite an appropriate place to snag Harte’s work, if you know your California history!). I’ve read two of his tales, “The Luck of Roaring Camp” and “The Outcasts at Poker Flat”, and enjoyed them, so I’m happy to own this one at last.

Sandglass (right click and select Open in New Tab to see full size):

Updated 12/23/2013 by JF


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