Literary Industries: Chasing a Vanishing West

Assembling the personal collection that became The Bancroft Library at the University of California, Berkeley

A bookseller in San Francisco during the Gold Rush, Hubert Howe Bancroft (1832–1918) rose to become the man who would define the early history of California and the West. Creating what he called a “history factory,” he assembled a vast library of over sixty thousand books, maps, letters, and documents; hired scribes to copy material in private hands; employed interviewers to capture the memories of early Spanish and Mexican settlers; and published multiple volumes sold throughout the country by his subscription agents. In 1890 he published an eight-hundred-page autobiography, aptly entitled Literary Industries.

Literary Industries sparkles with the exuberance of nineteenth-century California and introduces us to a man of great complexity and wit. Edited for the modern reader and yet relating the history of the West as it was taking place—and as it was being recorded—Kim Bancroft’s edition of Literary Industries is a joy to read.

From Literary Industries:

“It is a characteristic of some people that they are never satisfied except when they are a little miserable.”

“Men of genius usually are visionary dreamers; they are often as ingenuous as children, likewise as wayward and as petulant. No wonder women cannot endure them.”

“It is perhaps one of the severest trials of an author’s life, first coming in contact with a publisher.”


“Conveys Hubert Bancroft’s passion for history and his reverence for the written word.”—San Francisco Chronicle


“A delight to hold and read.”—California History Action

About the Author and Editor

Kim BancroftKim Bancroft is a longtime teacher turned editor and writer. She earned a B.A. in English from Stanford, an M.A. in English and a teaching credential from San Francisco State University, and a doctorate in education from UC Berkeley. She has taught at various high schools and community colleges in the Bay Area, at the Universidad de Guanajuato in Mexico, and at Sacramento State. Kim has edited several books, including Ariel: A Memoir by Ariel Parkinson; The Morning the Sun Went Down by Darryl Wilson; and Ruth’s Journey: A Survivor’s Memoir, by Ruth Glasberg Gold. She lives in Willits, California, in a redwood forest and enjoys the nouveau-Thoreau challenges and opportunities of life in a small cabin with a satellite dish on top. She is the great-great-granddaughter of Hubert Howe Bancroft. Read her blog, "Urban Woman's Guide Back to the Land," here: