Hubert Bancroft

Hubert Howe Bancroft was one of the great chroniclers of the American West and of North America. He was a prolific writer and historian as well as a respected ethnologist. Born in Granville, Ohio on May 5th 1832, Bancroft attended a local school and was tutored by his mother. He was unable to go to college because the costs were too high so he began work at 16 in his brother-in-law’s bookshop in Buffalo, N.Y.

By 1856 he had traveled across Europe and America and opened his own bookshop in San Francisco, before quickly becoming the largest bookseller in the West. It was the profits from his business success that enabled him to build one of the biggest historical libraries (the collection had over 60,000 volumes in it) on America and western civilization.

He went on to write his own books, from the encyclopedic history of the American West to histories of Mexico and of Indian Culture. In all Bancroft published 39 separate works. Criticized at the time for not observing standard academic practices and for the use of numerous assistants in writing the massive volumes, Bancroft did not achieve the fame as a writer he thought he deserved. Nevertheless, his reputation has grown over the years, not as a writer but rather as an editor and a collator of an impressive historical collection.

38 of his 39 works are available in libraries and on academic websites across the world. The only one not available is The Book of Wealth which was published for a select group and which very rarely comes on the market.