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Item 58. Frank Norris’s McTeague—“Deeply
felt, precisely observed, and masterfully constructed, the work of a youth,
the work of a master. In short, a literary miracle and masterpiece, a California
|58. NORRIS, Frank
[Benjamin Franklin] (1870-1902).
McTeague: A Story of San Francisco by...Author of “Moran of the
Lady Letty.” New York: Doubleday & McClure Co., 1899. 
442 [4, ads] pp. 8vo, original red vertical ribbed cloth decorated
and lettered in white. Slightly shelf-slanted, spine a bit light,
minor traces of shelf wear at spinal extremities, lower hinge starting
but strong, interior very fine and clean, overall a near fine to
fine copy, with none of the white stamping
flaking (as is usually the case with this book). This is a difficult book to find in collector’s condition.
First edition, first issue, with unexpurgated text on p. 106 (“moment” as last word). Baird-Greenwood 1879. BAL 15031. Bennett, American Book Collecting, pp. 184-85. Cowan II, p. 878 (#450). Edwards, Enduring Desert, p. 183: “Ably depicts early San Francisco and—as though motivated by some Fabian influence—determines to conclude its plot in a macabre Death Valley setting.” Howell 50, California 674. Huntington Library, Zamorano 80...Exhibition of Famous and Notorious California Classics 58. Johnson, High Spots of American Literature, p. 60. Libros Californianos, p. 61 (Powell commentary): “McTeague is not only the finest of all California novels, but, possibly, the greatest of all American novels.” Norris 2860. Powell, California Classics, pp. 175-84: “Deeply felt, precisely observed, and masterfully constructed, the work of a youth, the work of a master. In short, a literary miracle and masterpiece, a California classic.” Streeter Sale 3026. Wright III:3989. Zamorano 80 #58 (Phil Townsend Hanna): “The book is particularly significant because it marks the first appearance in the United States of realistic fiction of the genre produced by Émile Zola, Maupassant, Stendhal and other European writers. In McTeague Norris set a pattern followed and developed by Theodore Dreiser, Sherwood Anderson, et al.” ($500-1,000)
58A. NORRIS, Frank [Benjamin
Franklin]. A Story of San Francisco...McTeague, Introduction
by Charles G. Norris...An Exact Printing of the Text from the First Edition.
San Francisco: Colt Press, 1941.  390 [1, colophon]
pp., title and text illustrations by Otis Oldfield (hand-colored).
4to, original black buckram over floral cloth in jewel tones and
gilt, printed red spine label. Spine chipped, otherwise fine. Publisher’s
box not present.
Phil Townsend Hanna, in writing the entry on McTeague for Libros Californianos, called it the finest, and possibly the greatest,
American novel. Later generations may dispute this claim and others
would argue that The Octopus (1901) must be regarded as
Norris’s most important work about the West. Nonetheless, this
novel of the seamy side of life in San Francisco is a hallmark
of California and American literature, and according to Kevin Starr,
“the finest novel ever to be set in San Francisco.” Following Bret
Harte and Sam Clemens, Norris was the next major writer to achieve
national recognition for focusing on California and Western themes.
——Gary F. Kurutz
Additional sources consulted: Don Graham, “Frank Norris” in A Literary History of the American West (Fort Worth: Texas Christian University Press), pp. 370-80; Lawrence Clark Powell, California Classics (Los Angeles: The Ward Ritchie Press, 1971), pp. 175-84.
Item 58. Ad from Norris’s McTeague, not only the finest of all California novels, but, possibly, the greatest of all American novels” (Powell).