"There is something about a treasure," says Joseph Conrad in Nostromo, "that fastens on a man's mind." And, yes, there is something about the subject of treasure hunting that continues to fascinate us. One only needs to browse the Web to discover a whole netherworld of treasure-hunting magazines, metal-detector clubs, and lost-mine information exchanges that apparently engage the funds and spare time of thousands of hopefuls. But digging up tin cans and discarded horseshoes or crashing through the Superstitions in a "recreational vehicle" somehow goes against the romantic grain.

Charles Elliott recaptures the essential romance of the search in this collection of classic stories. Many are true - or purport to be. They encompass all the great themes - obsession, tragedy, danger, crime, frustration, terrible physical challenge, success and disappointment. They take place under the sea, in jungles, on desert islands, even in the attics of old houses. The treasure itself is not always gold, silver, and diamonds - it may be lost documents, the solution to a historical puzzle, or an unexpected archaeological discovery. What is common to them all is the excitement of the chase and the possibility - irrational, perhaps, but unavoidable -that treasure really is there for the finding.