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Item 21: Ina Coolbrith’s Songs from the Golden Gate with illustrations by William Keith—the only book of poetry in the Zamorano 80.
|21. COOLBRITH, Ina
[Donna] (1841-1928). Songs from the Golden Gate.... With Illustrations
by William Keith. Boston & New York: Houghton, Mifflin and Company;
Cambridge: The Riverside Press, 1895. vii  159 pp., 4 halftone plates
(photographs of William Keith’s paintings). 12mo, original gilt-lettered
green cloth, gilt lyre on upper cover, t.e.g. Binding slightly shelf-worn
and with a few light stains, mild browning to endpapers, carelessly opened,
good to very good copy. Signed by author in pencil on front free endpaper.
First edition. Huntington Library, Zamorano 80...Exhibition of Famous and Notorious California Classics 21. LC, California Centennial 282. Norris 853. Notable American Women I, pp. 379-80: “Coolbrith...was made an honorary member of [the Bohemian Club], an honor accorded to no other woman.” Walker, A Literary History of Southern California, pp. 79-82; San Francisco’s Literary Frontier, p. 63: “She refused to write her autobiography, [stating] ‘Were I to write what I know, the book would be too sensational to print; but were I to write what I think proper, it would be too dull to read.’” Zamorano 80 #21. Artist William Keith (1839-1911), “Scottish-born painter, went to California (1859).... He frequently went on outings throughout the state with John Muir and John Burroughs, making observations for his paintings.... In his day he was esteemed as the leading depicter of California’s natural setting” (Hart, Companion to California, p. 219). ($50-100)
21A. COOLBRITH, Ina [Donna]. Songs from the
Golden Gate.... Boston & New York: Houghton, Mifflin and
Company; Cambridge: The Riverside Press, . vii  159  pp.,
frontispiece portrait of author, 4 halftone plates (photographs of William
Keith’s paintings). 12mo, original gilt-lettered white cloth, gilt lyre
on upper cover, t.e.g. A few light stains, otherwise fine. Author’s signed
presentation copy to noted California artist Maynard Dixon (Hart,
Companion to California, p. 115) and his wife: “To Maynard
and Dorothea Dixon, in grateful appreciation of the glowing bit of California
you give me wherewith to brighten my exile. Ina Coolbrith. Russian Hill,
Aug. 30, 1920.”
Item 21A. Photogravure of Ina Donna Coolbrith (1841-1928), California’s 19th century Poet Laureate.
Item 21A. Author’s signed presentation copy to noted California artist Maynard Dixon.
The only book of poems included in this august list of Californiana
is Ina Coolbrith’s Songs of the Golden Gate. She had a passion
for California equaled by few others and this slender volume features
the best of her lyric poetry. Pioneer literary historian Ella Sterling
Cummins (q.v.) praised her, saying, “There is no other woman writer in
California who equals her in beauty and strength and purity of language.”
This “mistress of California verse” was a remarkable woman in an age
dominated by men. As a child she came overland to the Golden State in
1851 via covered wagon, claiming to have been carried across the Sierra
on the saddle of James P. Beckwourth, the famed mountain man. Living
in mining camps and then Los Angeles, she received a modest education.
Eventually settling in San Francisco, she penetrated the City’s young literary
scene and knew just about everyone of consequence. She helped Bret Harte
(q.v.) establish the Overland Monthly and associated with the
likes of Sam Clemens (q.v.), Charles Warren Stoddard, Ambrose Bierce,
and Joaquin Miller (q.v.). In addition, she served as the librarian of
the Oakland Free Library, befriending and guiding the education of Jack
London and Isadora Duncan. Later, she became the librarian of the Bohemian
Club in San Francisco. Ever mindful of her adopted state’s rich literary
heritage, she organized a World Congress of Authors at the 1915 Panama
Pacific International Exposition, and for her efforts, the California
Legislature named her as the state’s first poet laureate.
——Gary F. Kurutz
Additional sources consulted: Ella Sterling Cummins, The Story of the Files (San Francisco: Co-Operative Printing Co., 1893), pp. 149-51; James D. Hart, A Companion to California (New York: Oxford University Press, 1978), p. 94; Review by Charles F. Lummis in The Land of Sunshine 4:2 (January 1896), p. 91.