Mark Twain Tales Speeches Essays And Sketches Of Faces

By Kevin MacDonnell (Mac Donnell Rare Books)
Copyright © 1998 Firsts Magazine, Inc.
Used with permission

I. A History of Twain-Collecting
II. The Leap to Fame
III. The Primary First Editions of Mark Twain
IV. Huck Finn Among the Issue-Mongers
V. Some New Paths in Twain-Collecting
VI. A Mark Twain Reference Shelf

I. A History of Twain-Collecting

Mark Twain's world-wide appeal endures because his writings appeal to very different people in very different ways. Many of his contemporary readers saw him as a sort of genial corn-pone clown, a grandfatherly figure with a benign wit, and for better or worse, this is the image that persists in the popular mind today. Literary critics are drawn to Twain because his works herald the beginning of modern American literature. Scholars of American culture admire him as an incisive social critic. Biographers view him with fascination as one of the first American celebrities, forced to balance the dualities of a private life that was at sharp variance from his public persona. That public persona persists for many who have never read HUCK FINN. They know Twain only through his oft-quoted --and often misattributed-- aphorisms. If they do know anything of HUCK FINN, they accept the movie versions of his masterpiece --a sentimental paean to a lost idyllic collective American childhood. And yet, despite the distortion inherent in his public image, he remains a larger than life figure in the pantheon of American literary giants because he is widely embraced as a quintessential American icon, a symbol that embodies all the positive cultural attributes that Americans project on themselves. Readers are quick to empathize with the ironic stance in his writings, which usually involves someone like ourselves (or so we like to think) struggling to resolve the basic conflicts that we all face in ways that are uniquely American: cynicism tempered with humor, self-doubt balanced by Calvinistic pride, and a genuine compassion for people that does not preclude contempt for the outrageous foibles of society. Twain knew the human heart, and human hearts respond.

Readers of his works collect Mark Twain for the same reasons they collect any author --they enjoy owning first or significant editions of writings that connect with their own lives. That enjoyment is enhanced by knowing the story behind the publication of a book: how the author came to write that particular book, the creative process and evolution of the text, how it found its way into print, what was involved in the physical production of the volume itself, what the cultural context of the text was to its time and place, and what kind of contemporary reception it received. Books record the pulse of human existence. Their texts reflect the collective inner lives of those who preceded us, and they exist at several levels --as physical objects, as texts, as concrete icons, as abstract symbols-- and the more levels at which a book is experienced (or a rock, for that matter) the more that book-collecting is integrated with the collector's inner life.

For collectors of Mark Twain first editions the thrill of the hunt is magnified by the fact that his first editions, with a few notable exceptions, were produced in relatively large numbers, making him one of the easier nineteenth authors to collect with a reasonable expectation of completing a collection. While some of his first editions can cost thousands of dollars, most cost hundreds, and even those that cost thousands in fine condition in the first states, can be found for hundreds when in later states and in less than perfect condition. Collectors are usually astonished that they can buy most of Twain's first editions for the same prices they'd expect to pay for widely collected contemporary authors (some of whom could still end up footnotes in the literary histories of the next century). Building a comprehensive collection of first editions is virtually impossible today for collectors of Whitman, Poe, Melville, and Hawthorne, some of whose works are extremely rare and expensive, while some others don't appear for sale at any price. Even for more affordable nineteenth century authors whose works are out of fashion --like Longfellow, Holmes, Howells, or Whittier-- there are some books that simply never appear in the market. Unlike most other major nineteenth century literary authors, Twain's works were generally issued in colorful pictorial bindings, or with lavish illustrations that were sometimes closely supervised by Twain himself. And Twain wrote in a wide variety of forms: novels, stories, plays, sketches, political diatribes, after-dinner speeches, travel narratives, juveniles, essays, book reviews, biography, autobiography, and letters. The availability, beauty, and variety of his first editions makes collecting Twain a rewarding pursuit.

That pursuit had already begun as early as 1885 when a rare book dealer in New York, Leon & Brothers, issued the first rare book catalogue ever devoted exclusively to American authors. It included a listing of thirteen of Twain's first editions for sale. THE CELEBRATED JUMPING FROG was offered at $1.25 --at a time when new books sold for $1 or $2. Today, that book would be offered for least $12,500, while new books average $15 to $30. The most expensive book in 1885, THE INNOCENTS ABROAD, was $3.00, and HUCK FINN, just published, was priced at $2.75. Clearly, Twain collecting was in its infancy, with prices reflecting the publication prices of each title rather than the relative rarity of each first edition. And books were not the only thing being collected.

As early as 1884, Twain was complaining of requests for his autograph, prompting George W. Cable, a friend and fellow author, to secretly send out one hundred and fifty letters to their mutual friends, asking that each one write Twain a letter requesting his autograph, timing them to arrive on April Fool's Day. By 1893, Twain was well aware of the collectors' market for his works, and proposed to his English publisher, Chatto & Windus, that they print a limited edition of one of his poems and offer it to collectors. Relatively few people, then or now, were aware that Twain wrote poetry, and the publisher wisely declined. About ten years later Twain saw his autograph being offered in a catalogue that arrived in the mail, and was furious (and perhaps secretly flattered) that somebody would sell his clipped signature for the princely sum of $5. It is said he thereafter would only sign books on the inside front cover to prevent people from cutting out his signature and selling it. Most of the books Twain inscribed during the last ten years of his life were indeed inscribed on the inside front cover, while most of the books he inscribed earlier were inscribed on end papers, flyleaves, or half-titles. Despite his misgivings, Twain was generous to people requesting his autograph in books or on menus, and he once allowed a collector (one Reverend Powers) to send him his entire collection, a few books at a time, each with a question on the end paper where Twain was expected to write his answer beneath. Twain dutifully complied, but some questions were insipid and others were unintentionally insulting, with the result that as the good Reverend sent each batch, Twain's answers got shorter and shorter. The Reverend Powers' collection was sold at auction in 1911, and they still surface in the market from time to time.

Autograph collecting is beyond the scope of this article, but a note of warning is in order. Unlike many modern celebrities, Twain generously complied with most autograph requests, and he produced a mass of correspondence, legal documents, and manuscripts. Machlis' UNION LIST records roughly ten thousand surviving letters written by Twain. That figure does not include his manuscripts, most of which survive, or autograph cards that he signed on request. Consider that Twain is estimated to have written at least five times this many letters during more than fifty years of active letter-writing, and that very few people who got letters from Twain threw them away. Consider also that Twain has attracted more than his share of forgers, beginning in the 1920s and continuing to the present day. Putting aside the issue of forgeries, and allowing for letters that have been in the market more than once during the last twenty years, more than five hundred genuine autograph letters and documents have appeared at auction alone in the last twenty years, and at least half as many more have been sold by dealers. Autograph collectors should know that his autograph material, while in great demand, is not in short supply. Unlike his books, prices for his autographs have been volatile, bouncing up and down in recent years. The most significant runs of his letters, as well as several major autograph collections, have appeared at Christie's and Sotheby's, and autograph collectors would be wise to study closely the annual auction indexes, and subscribe to the catalogues of those two auction firms (and others).

While Twain's autographs are attractive and plentiful in the market, the vast majority of Twain collecting has been focused on his first editions. During the last months of Twain's life, a rare book dealer, Merle Johnson, began his bibliography of Twain's works and sent the manuscript to Harper Brothers for approval. He concluded his contract negotiations in May, 1910, just one month after Twain's death, and his bibliography appeared that November in an edition of 500 copies, pointing the direction for Twain collectors for the next quarter century, until Johnson revised his bibliography just before his death in 1935. Johnson's assistant, Jake Blanck, saw the revised edition through the press, and in 1957, as editor of THE BIBLIOGRAPHY OF AMERICAN LITERATURE (BAL), he published what is now the standard bibliography of Twain's works as part of the second volume of that nine-volume monumental guide to American literature of the nineteenth century. Johnson had included Twain's magazine appearances in his bibliography, but only a few advanced collectors strayed from collecting first editions. Some have collected Twain's first magazine appearances, especially coveting the May 1, 1852 issue of 'The Carpet-Bag' containing his first published story, or the November, 1866 issue of 'Harper's New Monthly Magazine' containing his first writing to appear in a nationally circulated journal, or the 1884/5 issues of 'The Century Magazine' containing several chapters of HUCK FINN, which appeared prior to the book. BAL gave hints of some new directions in Twain collecting, by listing English and Canadian editions overlooked by Johnson, but most collectors, then and now, have "followed the flag," conforming to the tradition of collecting the first American editions of American authors. Some have collected the English or Canadian editions when they could be proved to be the true first edition, or in cases where they contained first printings of some stories, but the American first editions are the quarry that remain firmly in the crosshairs of Twain collectors. Next month, we will suggest some new paths for those who seek the thrill of the hunt.

Back to top

Part II: The Leap to Fame

In the morning hours of January 9, 1851, a small fire started in a grocery store in a sleepy little town perched on the banks of the Mississippi River. The flames were quickly extinguished, but not before scaring the wits out of an office boy in the newspaper office next door --he grabbed a broom, a mallet, a wash-pan and a dirty rag and scurried out the door, lugging his precious cargo to safety -- about a half mile away by his witless reckoning.

Unfortunately for that hapless young man, his sixteen-year-old office mate stayed behind and wrote up a brief but brutally funny account of the episode that appeared a week later in the newspaper. At the end of the one-paragraph squib that ran under the headline 'A Gallant Fireman,' the discombobulated printer's devil returns breathless after the excitement is over, and imagining himself a hero, exclaims to all who might listen, "If that thar fire hadn't bin put out, thar'd a' bin the greatest confirmation of the age!" Readers of that Hannibal, Missouri newspaper no doubt relished the blunt humor of a local news report righting on a good-natured coward mistaking himself for a hero, and they would have been disappointed if the piece had not been delivered with a punch-line, in this case a malapropism that was a staple of frontier humor.

More than fifty years later, Samuel Langhorne Clemens, the boy who stayed behind, still recalled details of the dust-up that provided him with the raw materials for his first published writing, even though the experience had not kindled his desire to become an author. More than a year passed before he would appear in print again, and this time it was a longer piece, his first published story-- 'The Dandy Frightening the Squatter.' Signing the piece with his initials, "S. L. C." he sent it to a Boston comic newspaper, 'The Carpet-Bag,' edited by the humorist Benjamin P. Shillaber who was already well-known for his comic creation, "Mrs. Ruth Partington." Years later, the illustration of Aunt Polly in the first edition of THE ADVENTURES OF TOM SAWYER was copied directly from a portrait of the popular Mrs. Partington that had adorned one of Shillaber's books. Perhaps the mature Twain was acknowledging his roots; at any rate contemporary readers would have instantly recognized Partington's familiar visage and made the connection.

The May 1, 1852 issue of Shillaber's paper carried Clemens' story, and it was obvious this teenager had talent. The story relates how a dandy, fresh off a steamboat, tries to impress some young ladies by pulling a practical joke on a squatter he finds loafing near the steamboat landing. Brandishing an enormous Bowie knife and two pistols, the dandy confronts the loafer, pretending that he has mistaken him for some long-sought enemy who will now be justly punished for some past misdeed. The dandy threatens the squatter, expecting the backwoodsman to beg for mercy, but the gag backfires. Without a word, the squatter sends the city-slicker backwards into the River with one well-placed jab between the eyes. The local bumpkin then displays a keen frontier wit with a remark he makes to the dripping dandy who retreats in humiliation. The ladies, duly impressed, render an impromptu verdict, and award the knife and pistols to the squatter. The theme of the river, the contrasting characters of the "civilized" dandy and the "backwoods" squatter, the reversal of a practical joke, the vivid narrative language, the authentic dialogue, and the prompt administration of frontier justice were all elements that would reappear in Clemens' works during his entire career.

Clemens continued writing comic pieces for newspapers for the next thirteen years, polishing his style while leading a peripatetic existence. After a brief stint as a typesetter for his brother Orion's newspaper, he visited the great cities of the eastern United States (1853-4), returned to the Midwest to do more newspaper work (1854-6), became a steamboat pilot on the Mississippi River (1857-61), had an extraordinarily brief career as a Confederate "irregular" (1861), and joined his brother in Nevada (1861-4), finally settling in San Francisco in 1864. During these early years he witnessed an astonishing variety of American cultures that would later provide him with the authentic contexts for his greatest works. Many critics credit Clemens' childhood as the primary inspiration of his work, and while it was certainly a major source that provided the settings for much of his best work, his characters, themes, and literary style did not evolve until the 1850s and 1860s out of his exposure to a broad spectrum of American life that was far more diverse than what most contemporary Americans witnessed in their entire lives.

At least once during his western travels, Clemens met Charles Farrar Browne, who had labored as a typesetter at 'The Carpet-Bag' when Clemens' first story appeared in its pages. Browne, under the pen-name Artemus Ward, had gone on to become a successful comedian, lecturer, and author, one of several popular comics soon to become known as the Phunny Phellows. The Phunny Phellows fed their Victorian audiences a bland diet of simple gags, sprinkled liberally with malapropisms, terrible puns, comic misspellings, blatant racism, stock characters, and shop-worn topical jokes. Toward the end of 1865 Ward invited Clemens, who by that time had been writing under the name Mark Twain for nearly two years, to contribute a story to Ward's forthcoming collection of western travel sketches, ARTEMUS WARD, HIS TRAVELS. Twain decided to submit his own version of a decidedly unphunny --but very funny-- western story he had heard in the mining camps. It arrived in New York City too late for inclusion in Ward's book, and was forwarded to a local newspaper. Although Twain was bitter at the time, this seeming misfortune proved to be his big break.

Newspaper readers who opened their 'New York Saturday Press' on November 18, 1865 (the final issue of that ill-fated paper!) were startled by a story that leapt off the page at them like no tall- tale before it. No Phunny Phellow would or could have served up a story this way. The tale itself was one that had been told many times before around campfires, a typical southwestern yarn righting around a practical joke involving a remarkable frog named Dan'l Webster. Dan'l's proud owner, a compulsive gambler by the name of Jim Smiley, cajoles a simple-looking fellow into betting against his wonderful frog in a jumping contest, but the stranger doesn't happen to have a frog on him. Smiley, smelling a sucker and sure of success, hurries off to catch a frog for the innocent stranger, unaware that in his absence the stranger fills Dan'l Webster with lead buckshot, turning the tables on the clever gambler in a way that faintly echoed the somewhat less sophisticated method employed by the squatter in dealing with the dandy. By the way, this caper probably could not be pulled off today. We understand that Smiley's descendants, by consistently marrying up, have gradually gotten smarter with each generation!

[Author's note: This article originally appeared in 'Firsts Magazine' which is published by Robin H. Smiley, and edited by his wife Kathryn. This last sentence was included in the original manuscript of this article as a joke on Robin, and as a sort of test to see how closely he was reading this piece; Kathryn exercised her editorial authority to retain it in the published version, and so it is retained here.]

In Twain's telling of the jumping frog story, few of the traditional humorous elements are present, and the plot is advanced in a deceptively complex literary manner using the framing device of a naive narrator who is himself tricked into being buttonholed by a deadpan western character, Simon Wheeler, who in turn actually tells the tale, seemingly oblivious to its humor. Wheeler's meandering style is full of apparent irrelevancies, but along the way the characters are nicely developed and assume almost three- dimensional form. The meandering is not pointless. Woven into the plot are an intelligent dog named Andrew Jackson, a horse, a Parson, and at the last moment Wheeler embarks on the story of a one-eyed cow with no tail, but the narrator, at wit's end, excuses himself and escapes, bringing the entire story to an abrupt close.

The contrast between the educated narrator and the local frontiersman who bends his ear is reinforced by the opposing characters of the supposedly cagey Jim Smiley and the supposedly innocent stranger. Even the names of the frog and the dog draw attention to the contrast between Eastern civilization and the Western frontier. The story itself didn't matter; the humor and literary art flowed naturally from the ironic framing device and the carefully preserved deadpan delivery, both indicative of the genius for structure and language that would mark Twain's oral and written styles his entire career.

Immediately, newspapers across the country began reprinting 'The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County' and with every reprinting Twain's fame spread further and the demand for more stories increased. A year later, in December, 1866, Twain boarded a steamer in San Francisco, crossed the Isthmus of Nicaragua, arrived in New York in January, and spent the next several months giving lectures and searching for a publisher for a collection of his short stories that would capitalize on his new-found celebrity.

THE CELEBRATED JUMPING FROG OF CALAVERAS COUNTY, AND OTHER SKETCHES was being advertised for sale by April 25, 1867, and within five days the entire first printing of 1,000 copies had been bound. Twain sent a copy in blue cloth to his mother on May 1. Twenty days later a second printing of 552 copies were bound up for sale, and the book was reprinted in 1868, 1869, and 1870. During that time Twain and the publisher got into a dispute over their respective ownership of the printed copies, the printing plates, and the copyright. Finally, in December of 1870, after threatening a lawsuit, Twain reached a settlement in which he paid the publisher $600 (which he claimed was the amount actually owed to him by the publisher), and an additional $800. In return he became owner of the copyright, the printing plates, some unused paper, and all unsold copies. By that time 4,076 copies had been printed and bound, and 250 unbound copies remained, as well as 50 bound copies. Twain, already the victim of a Canadian pirate who had published a cheap edition, melted down the plates and immediately proposed a revised edition in wrappers to another publisher, who declined.

In those days, the sale of 4,000 copies in less than four years was a respectable number, but not a wild success, and this can be attributed in part to the format of the book. Unlike most collections of comic sketches published in the 1860s, Twain's first book was small in size and completely unillustrated. Other humor volumes of the day were either cloth-bound books generously illustrated with comic drawings, or extremely cheap paperbacks -- Twain's book was neither. But this unassuming volume (and its English yellow-back piracy) had brought Twain's writings to the attention of a larger and more easterly situated reading public than those already familiar with his widely scattered newspaper sketches. It had served its purpose, for by the time Twain was getting ready to melt down those hard-won plates, he had already seen his second book through the press, and watched it become a best seller.

Unlike Dan'l Webster, Twain had no buckshot holding him down. If his first book had been a leap toward fame, his second book would send him full steam before a world-wide audience. Barely a month after THE CELEBRATED JUMPING FROG appeared, he climbed aboard the ocean steamer 'Quaker City' along with a large group of wealthy American tourists on a pilgrimage to visit Europe and the Holy Land. During the five month voyage Twain wrote burlesque accounts of his travels for several newspapers, and upon his return was offered a contract for a book by a subscription book publisher in Hartford. Twain had admired the gaudy appearance and aggressive marketing of subscription books, and was well-aware of the potential profits that could be made publishing in that format. His second book bore no resemblance to his first.

When THE INNOCENTS ABROAD, OR THE NEW PILGRIMS' PROGRESS appeared in July, 1869, it was an imposing tome the size of a desk dictionary, heavily illustrated, with wide margins, set in large widely-spaced type, available in a variety of attractive but cheaply manufactured bindings, and priced at thrice the price of the average new book. The heft of the book, as with all subscription books, gave the buyer a sense of getting more for his money. It was not available in bookstores, and was only sold door to door by subscription agents who were supplied by the publisher with a prospectus that displayed samples of the bindings, the text, and the illustrations. The subscription formula was a successful one, and in the next six months 39,000 copies of this book were sold for $3.50 to $5.00 each. And unlike books sold only in bookstores, whose sale figures faded quickly, subscription books sometimes sold steadily for years after their initial publication because of continual promotion. Ten years after THE INNOCENTS ABROAD was first published, sales totaled 125,479 copies. In sobering contrast, THE CELEBRATED JUMPING FROG sold for $1, with sales going flat within four years, ending in a financial dispute in which Twain may have lost money. With this second book, a Canadian edition soon followed, as well as English editions and a European edition, and while Twain gained a huge readership from those other editions, he was paid no royalties from their sale, a situation that would vex him for many years. But he made a fortune from his royalties on the American subscription edition, and it is no wonder that nearly every one of Twain's books for the next thirty years was published and sold in this fashion. That was a wise financial decision by Twain, who would later make some terrible business investments that would eventually force him into bankruptcy, but it has proved to be a boon for collectors. A shelf of Twain first editions is far more diverse and attractive than a shelf of the works of nearly any other nineteenth century author.

Back to top

Part III: The Primary First Editions of Mark Twain

The following list of Twain's primary first editions is selective. Only major works are included; the list could have been four times as long and only half as interesting. Publishers' imprints have been standardized and abbreviated; several of Twain's subscription books were issued with multiple imprints listing agents in different cities, while others are known with variant imprints; these are discussed in detail under each title. A special effort has been made to provide valid bibliographical information not included in Johnson or BAL; for routine collations and fuller physical descriptions of the books, readers should refer to those two reference works.

Where reliable documented sources exist (publisher's records, correspondence, and the books themselves) significant information, not otherwise widely known, has been provided: edition sizes, previously unrecorded binding variants, and bibliographical characteristics of previously unidentified printings, states, and issues. My conclusions about matters of bibliographical description are based on the principles expounded by Fredson Bowers and Philip Gaskell. My examples of binding and textual variants are based on copies in my own collection as well as personal examination of copies I have handled over the years as a bookseller. In a few cases where I have not personally examined a copy, I have made that clear. Years of experience have taught me that bibliographical hearsay rarely passes muster.

When examining the bibliographical evidence and publishing histories of Twain's books, it should be remembered at all times that these books were products that were mass-produced for profit. The publishers' decisions about paper, typesetting, printing, repairs, binding, and marketing of these books were driven by economic necessities. The materials used were not intended to last forever, and the processes involved in their production were not intended to preserve any sort of bibliographical record for the benefit of future students of Twain's works. It is folly to apply a rigid scientific method to things made by human beings whose behavior is not always logical, consistent, or predictable.

My use of the words "fine" and "very good" to describe condition when reporting the market values of these books also requires some explanation. Modern first edition collectors and dealers in works by contemporary authors often use these terms as absolutes. In contrast, anyone familiar with incunables would not place such a book next to a Stephen King novel and describe either one as "fine" without some discrimination. An incunable with a few marginal worm holes, some normal aging to the pigskin, some light dust on the spine, a missing end paper, some subtle warping of the spruce boards, a couple of ownership inscriptions, and some paper flaws from the manufacturing process, might be considered a fine and wonderful copy by the most fastidious connoisseur. Equivalent defects in a Stephen King first edition would be fatal. For nineteenth century books, "fine" is a shorthand term that does not equate with perfect. A book with no obvious wear, bright gilt, and a clean tight text is usually considered fine even if it does have an ownership inscription, a suggestion of rubbing at the corners, and some normal mild toning of the paper. When "very good" is applied in shorthand fashion to a nineteenth century book, it still describes an attractive copy with no defects or damage, but the book might show some signs of use, or some dust, or some fading, or some foxing in the text. Unlike some century old collectibles like stamps or coins that sometimes escape use altogether and survive in pristine condition, books by popular authors are seldom so lucky. The collector of modern first editions who is used to the challenge of seeking the best-priced fine copy of a particular book that he can find, may have to adjust his thinking when he steps back more than one hundred years in time. For Twain collectors, especially when looking for the early subscription volumes, the question is more often a decision to buy the best copy one can afford, or simply finding an acceptable copy, regardless of price.

 


Two special notes are appropriate, one about subscription book bindings, and the other about dust jackets. The subscription books were issued in various styles of cloth and leather bindings. Collectors should be aware that the early black cloth bindings, unlike the bindings on Twain's later books, are very hard to find in truly fine condition. Even the best copies seen nearly always show some small signs of rubbing, or tiny cracks or breaks in the cloth of the spine tips. The cloth and papers used were relatively cheap quality and become brittle with age. The leather bindings were also not always the best quality, and copies in the full sheep bindings, though produced in good numbers for some titles, rarely survive in numbers proportional to the number that were originally bound. Cracked hinges, chipping, and dry leather are the norm. The morocco bindings are only slightly more sturdy than the sheep bindings, and seal russia is rarely seen at all.

Most, if not all, of Twain's Harper's books were probably issued in dust jackets, but early collectors did not value them, and they were not often preserved, unless by accident. Johnson did not think them important enough to warrant mention, and BAL ignores them as well for different reasons: dust jackets provide dicey bibliographical evidence given that they are easily exchanged between copies. Later edition jackets are frequently married to first edition books. Fortunately, with Twain's Harper books, the earliest states of the dust jackets generally carried a box advertisement on the rear panel advertising his other books. When those ads mention books published after the date of publication of the book in hand, you can be sure you have a later state jacket, possibly the result of a marriage not made in heaven. I have noted four states of the jacket for ADAM'S DIARY, three for CAPTAIN STORMFIELD, and two each for A DOUBLE BARRELLED DETECTIVE STORY, A DOG'S TALE, EDITORIAL WILD OATS, CHRISTIAN SCIENCE, and A HORSE'S TALE, and there are no doubt others. That said, most of states I've noted are fairly early ones, and minute study of their wear, offsetting, and age spots would indicate that all of them are original with the books they are on. Clearly Harper took no pains to print the same number of jackets as books. They sometimes used left-over early jackets on later copies, and sometimes had to print new jackets for old stock as it was sold. While copies of Twain's books bring four to eight times as much when found in dust jackets, they have still been grossly undervalued far out of proportion to their relative rarity. Even so, at this late date, trying to build a complete collection of the known jackets would be an unrealistic goal. So the collector must be secure in the knowledge that a shelf of Twain first editions is a handsome shelf of books that tempts the reader, with or without dust jackets.

A final note is in order regarding some of the bibliographical notes on Twain's first editions. Broken type and textual corrections have long been accepted as evidence of priority between finished copies of Twain's books. These conclusions are reasonable in those cases where it is known that a book was produced from a single setting of standing type, but that was rarely the case with Twain's books. Instead, most of Twain's books were printed from plates produced from master molds taken from standing type, and such plates were routinely duplicated and modified in ways that render it impossible to draw sound conclusions of priority about the books they were used to produce. To further complicate matters, some of Twain's books were printed simultaneously from multiple plates by more than one printer. In next month's issue, we will focus on HUCK FINN for a detailed, and at times, mind-numbing, discussion of the vagaries of nineteenth century printing and binding methods. For many readers, some of the bibliographical notes on these individual books may result in mild abdominal distress that can only be relieved by the soothing coating action of next month's article.


THE CELEBRATED JUMPING FROG OF CALAVERAS COUNTY AND OTHER SKETCHES. New York: C. H. Webb, 1867. BAL 3310.

The author's first book consisted of twenty-seven short sketches, running the gamut from carefully crafted fiction to carelessly written newspaper skits, all riding on the coattails of the title story. The first printing of 1,000 copies was bound and ready for sale May 1, 1867. A second printing of 552 copies was bound up twenty days later.

The first printing contained an inserted ad leaf just before the title-page. It was printed separately from the sheets of the book on buff paper (sometimes called yellow), and was inserted in all copies of the first printing, but was not inserted in the second printing sheets. The sheets of the first printing had undamaged type in folio 21 and in the last lines of text on pages 66 and 198. The pages of the first printing seem slightly stiffer than the second printing, a feature that may have resulted from the pressman printing the text with the grain of the paper instead of across the grain; because the paper stock is wove rather than laid, there are no chain-lines to provide a clue. At least two copies are known with page 198 wholly unprinted, but that is more likely the result of the accidental use of waste-sheets than an issue point; such sheets may have resulted if the type for that final page of text was removed from the forme for plating or correction before the last few sheets had been printed.

The fact that Twain gave a blue copy to his mother led to the erroneous conclusion years ago that blue copies were the earliest issued. When Twain was asked years later about the book, he recalled that is was bound in blue cloth, which only reenforced that misconception. In fact, Twain gave away copies in other colors of cloth at the time of publication, and copies were bound simultaneously in green, terra cotta, dark brown, lavender, blue, deep purple, maroon, and red cloth (in roughly ascending order of rarity). It was common practice for publishers of the day to issue a book in several colors of cloth for two reasons. First, it made it easy for booksellers to arrange colorful window displays; these were the days before color posters and dust jackets were in common use. Although dust jackets were used on American books as early as 1848 (RIP VAN WINKLE, illustrated by Darley, only one copy known), none of Twain's books were issued in jackets until the 1890s. Second, it allowed buyers to choose a color that would blend best with their own Victorian decor; green, red, and terra cotta were among the most popular Victorian decorating colors. All of these colors may have made the gilt-stamped frog on the front cover restless. On most copies he sits in the lower left corner of the cover, poised as if he might leap across to the other side. But in some copies he's frozen in mid leap at the right of the cover. By applying simple logic, this of course, should be the later state -- frogs don't jump backwards, after all. In reality, there is no priority between such copies. The binder who stamped his copies incorrectly can be excused for thinking the design belonged at the right since most pictorial gilt designs in those days were stamped at the right of the covers. If collectors of today pause to reflect that bindings at that time were the product of hand-work using simple stamping machines and a minimal division of labor, such anomalies become far less significant than if they were found on the mass-produced books of the twentieth century.

The first issue is usually found worn, and unless it's a green, brown or terra cotta copy, it's usually faded, too. The hinges are prone to cracking and splitting, and rebacked or recased copies are often seen. Repaired copies fetch $2,000 to $4,000; copies with some wear or fading, but no repairs (or need for repair) bring $4,000 to $8,000. Truly fine copies are rare, and sell for $12,000 to $18,000. Second issue copies bring far less, ranging from $1,000 to $3,000, depending on their condition. Because the first edition is expensive and hard to find in collectible condition, even the 1868-1870 reprints fetch a few hundred dollars.


THE INNOCENTS ABROAD, OR THE NEW PILGRIMS' PROGRESS. Hartford: American Publishing Co., 1869. BAL 3316.

Twain's first great success, this was more an anti-travel book than a travel book, as it is often described. Twain, by turns both savage and gentle, deflates the pretense of the Old World shrines as well as the Americans who worship at them. The first printing was 11,638 copies; just over 31,500 were bound during the first six months of sales, and 69,156 copies were sold during the first year of sales.

The three states of the first edition are described accurately by BAL, who notes that copies are found with mixed sheets. The changes that distinguish the three states (probably printings) of the first edition were due to corrections to the text, and in one case involved reimposition of the plates in the forme for the final gathering. As with HUCK FINN and all mass-produced books printed from electrotyped plates, changes in the text due to type wear and repair must be treated cautiously. BAL notes that some copies are found with a special dual San Francisco & Hartford imprint. These should not be confused with regular copies, all of which included San Francisco at the end of the list of cities and agents. Like many books sold in California during that period, the terminal ad leaves were usually excised from those copies since they listed prices for other books that did not include the extra cost for shipment to California that booksellers had to include in their retail mark-up. Some of those copies also had the added label of Bancroft, the publisher and bookseller whose name appeared in the imprint. Copies with the special San Francisco imprint can be properly described as a separate issue, but all three states (printings) are found with the San Francisco imprint.

The binding, like most of the subscription books that followed, was available in five standard styles: black cloth, plain edges; black cloth, gilt edges; three-quarter morocco; "library" style or "turkey morocco" which was actually a full sheep binding, and full morocco. The full morocco bindings were sometimes mentioned in the prospectuses, but the publisher's records indicate that very few were produced. In the case of this book, copies were also advertised in three-quarter calf. And, unlike most of the later subscription books, there are several binding styles that exist that were not advertised. The three-quarter morocco binding came in two distinct styles; the full morocco copies came with two different designs stamped at the right of the covers, and some copies were issued in fully gilt cloth (only two copies are recorded, one blue and one purple). A single copy survives in regular cloth, maroon in color, unbeveled boards, with the gilt designs stamped from brasses that differ from all other recorded copies; this copy may have been a trial binding, but the fact that it is on a set of third state sheets may provide a clue that the three states were bound up simultaneously. As to the relative rarity of the various bindings, survival rates are more meaningful than production numbers, which is a truism often forgotten by both dealers and collectors, and in this case the only solid numbers we have are sales figures for the first ten years. Cloth copies account for 88,124 of the 125,479 copies sold by 1879.

This book, like most of Twain's subscription books, is quite common in shabby condition in later states, and extremely difficult to find in fine condition in the first state. Fine copies of the first state in black cloth, plain edges, sell for $2,000 or more. Poor copies bring only a few hundred dollars, but most acceptable copies, if attractive and free of repairs, bring $800 to $1,500. Copies of any state in one of the normal leather bindings in very good condition bring a premium, and any copies in one of the unrecorded bindings, whether cloth or leather, would bring much more, regardless of the state of the sheets. Copies with the San Francisco imprint are rare and bring a premium.


MARK TWAIN'S (BURLESQUE) AUTOBIOGRAPHY AND FIRST ROMANCE. New York: Sheldon & Co. [1871] BAL 3326.

This short piece should not be confused with Twain's later AUTOBIOGRAPHY published in magazine form in 1906, and in book form in 1924. It is a fictional history of Twain's ancestry, told in a bragging fashion, but revealing most of them to have been criminals or ne'er-do-wells. Little is known of its publication history, the size of the edition, or why Twain's text was paired with cartoons lampooning Jay Gould's Erie Railroad scandal, which had nothing to do with the text.

This thin little booklet was issued in four colors of cloth: green, terra cotta, maroon, and lavender. Copies were also issued in wrappers. BAL describes the two states, and assigns priority between them, but overlooks the significance of an unusual feature of this book. The cloth-bound copies were made up of four six-leaf gatherings, while the wrappered copies were bound from a single twenty-four-leaf gathering. Clearly, the plates were reimposed between the printing of the cloth copy gatherings and the single gathering used for the wrappered copies. And yet, both states are found in cloth as well as wrappers. This means that if a single set of plates were used, that they were first imposed to produce sets of sheets for cloth copies, then reimposed to produce the single gathering for wrappered copies, then altered by the addition of the ad on the verso of the title-page, and then reimposed once again for each of the two bindings. Reimposing twice just to save a minuscule expense on sewing and collating on such a short text made no sense. Sewing and collating was done mostly by women whose wages were much lower than for men (so what's new?), who generally made plates and operated the presses. It seems more likely that two sets of plates were used, one for sets of gatherings for cloth copies and another for the gathering used in wrappered copies. The question is whether both sets of plates were altered by the addition of the ad after a first printing, or whether both sets of plates were used simultaneously, one with the ad and the other without. Since the ad is for a company having nothing to do with the publisher, it seems likely that they were produced at the same time, the copies without the ad being sold by the publisher, and the copies with the ad being distributed as a promotional piece by Ball, Black & Company, a New York jeweler, whose ad appears in those copies. It was not uncommon for publishers to run off separate issues of pamphlets with special imprints or features for a company or bookseller who contracted to buy a large quantity. Those arrangements were usually made in advance, since many publishers, especially smaller ones like Sheldon, would have been reluctant to produce an edition without some advance sales.

Cloth copies, unless maroon or lavender --which tend to fade-- are not hard to find in acceptable condition. Copies with the ad are more common than those without. In wrappers, first state copies are scarce, but second state copies are easier to find, primarily because an unsold stock of such copies (some with mild damp-stains) surfaced many years ago and were sold into the rare book market, where they were more carefully treated than those that had already been in circulation for decades. Fine copies in cloth bring $200 for the first issue, and half that for the second issue. The price spread between wrappered copies is greater. Second issue copies still bring only about $100, but first state copies in wrappers in really nice shape bring $300.
 

ROUGHING IT. Hartford: American Publishing Co., 1872. BAL 3337.

When Twain's brother Orion was appointed secretary to the Nevada Territory, Twain tagged along to see the west. This rollicking account of their steamboat and stagecoach journey west (the first fourth of the book), together with the mixture of tall tales and autobiographical sketches that comprise the bulk of the text made this a natural pick for the Zamorano Club's 'The Zamorano 80: a Selection of Distinguished California Books...' as was THE CELEBRATED JUMPING FROG. The print run for the first edition is uncertain but the book was published in February, 1872 and by month's end 10,855 copies had been bound. By May 1, according to a royalty statement, 37,701 copies had been sold, of which 22,543 were in cloth, 13,952 in sheep and in cloth with gilt edges, 1,176 in three-quarter morocco, and 30 in "special" bindings which included full morocco. By 1879, the proportions were as follows: 96,083 copies sold, with 68,436 in cloth, 2,066 in cloth with gilt edges, 23,831 in sheep, 1,710 in three-quarter morocco, and 40 in special bindings. Two surviving copies are recorded in the full morocco binding, one of which Twain presented to his wife which had her name stamped in gilt on the front cover. The other full morocco copy was identically stamped, but with no name on the cover.

BAL distinguishes between the first and second states by the presence of two words on page 242 (first state) or their absence (second state). But it isn't that simple. Copies are found with just one word present (or one word absent if you're a pessimist). And similar damage to the plates has been noted on the following pages: xi.1 (M in My is perfect); 19.1 (y is perfect); and 123.6up (death!). All of these texts are damaged at some point during the printing(s), and all, including the one on page 242, are found in endless random combinations. At some point, two words were altered: at page 156.2up "thirteenth" was corrected to "sixteenth" and page 330.16up "Eastern" was corrected to "eastern." These changes could distinguish between two printings, but may only distinguish between two later printings. The states of the plates can be guessed at, but if multiple plates were used or mixing of sheets took place (as is clear from surviving copies) they should be viewed with caution. As often with subscription books, the agents for the larger regions were included in the imprint. The imprint for this book is seven lines long, starting in Hartford and ending with San Francisco, with stops along the way in Chicago, Toledo, Cincinnati, Philadelphia, and Boston. All copies are alike except for the fifth line of the imprint which varies. Many copies, instead of a Boston agent, list a New Orleans agent, and other variants probably exist. Why the American Publishing Company chose to list their agents in this fashion is something of a mystery, but the best guess is that those agents ordering smaller numbers of copies were not allowed the prestige of having their name in all copies. With THE INNOCENTS ABROAD the imprint listed all of the agents, or it listed Bancroft of San Francisco by himself. Later, with THE GILDED AGE, the American Publishing Company changed their method and every book had either a Hartford imprint alone, or the Hartford imprint and the name of just one agent. After that, they did not list agents at all, but instead devised various code systems to identify their agents (see A TRAMP ABROAD and A CONNECTICUT YANKEE for a description of the two methods they used later).

As one of the early subscription books, fine copies are difficult to find. A copy with mostly first states in fine shape can fetch $1,250 or more. The sheep and three-quarter morocco bindings bring about the same. Copies in mostly later states in fine condition bring $400. Most often, copies have some edge wear, hinge problems, or crumbling of the cloth which becomes brittle with age. Very good copies with mostly first states, with no repairs or serious flaws, bring $600 to $1,000, and copies in later states in very good condition, bring $150 to $300. As always, the sheep binding is the hardest to find in collectible condition. The full morocco bindings are so rare that any value suggested would be speculation.
 

THE GILDED AGE, A TALE OF TO-DAY. Hartford: American Publishing Co., 1873 [and 1874] BAL 3357.

Twain's first novel was THE GILDED AGE, co-authored by his neighbor and fellow author, Charles Dudley Warner. It tells the epic story of Colonel Sellers and the Hawkins family in their relentless and convoluted pursuit of wealth, and their very American concept of wealth as a worthy end in itself. Wealth eludes them, often with tragic results, and the title of the novel became the name of the era it describes. The story follows a twisted path and is the least structured of Twain's fictional works. Appearing at the end of 1873, some copies carry an 1873 date, but most are dated 1874, including most of the 60 advance review copies sent out in wrappers and the copy that Warner presented his mother on the day of publication. Copies with the earliest states of the text are found with both 1873 and 1874 title-pages. No figures seem to exist for the print run of the first edition, but between December 11, 1873 and the end of the year 12,466 copies had been bound, and copies were put on sale by Christmas. Six years after publication, 56,484 copies had been sold: 41,233 were in cloth; 14,005 in sheep; 683 in three-quarter morocco; 505 in cloth, gilt edges; and 58 in full morocco.  

Like the other subscription books, it was offered in the usual bindings, ranging from regular black cloth, to deluxe leather bindings. I have never seen a copy in the publisher's full morocco, and only two review copies have appeared in the market in the last twenty-five years. The various printing states of this novel result both from damaged type that was repaired during the course of printing, and changes of text that may have occurred between printings. The obscure name Twain chose for his fictional Colonel Eschol Sellers turned out to be the real name of some poor drudge who came out of the woodwork and threatened a lawsuit. The name was quickly changed to Beriah in the next printing (was it the second printing?). Luckily, there were apparently no Beriahs among the reading public, or at least none who cared to announce themselves. BAL outlines other changes in the text. A page reference was corrected in the list of illustrations from 211 to 212, an illustration was added to page 403, and a misprint in the terminal ads was corrected from "truex inde" to "true index." The change that is most often discussed, because it is the least often seen, involves repeated lines: the last line on page 351 is repeated at the top of page 352, and the last line of page 352 is repeated as the first line on page 353. In the corrected plate, the repeated lines are removed from the bottom of page 351 and the top of 353. Although copies with both the 1873 and 1874 title-pages have been found with the repeated lines present, the fact that this error is always found in conjunction with all of the other earliest states and that it is very seldom found at all, would indicate it was corrected very early in the printing process. Without publisher's records, it is difficult to say whether these repeated lines might distinguish the first printing; they certainly represent the earliest state of the gathering in which they occur. The other changes noted by BAL (at pages 246.5up and 280.18) are the result of broken type and could have occurred during the course of a single printing, and because they occur in copies of the book in random combinations, it is clear that multiple plates or mixed sheets (or both) are involved. There are also significant changes, all the result of damaged type, at pages 302 (type breakage in the running head), 320 (type breakage in the chapter heading), 409.14 (the "W" drops out of "Washington"), and 473 (type breakage in "C" in the chapter heading, and type breakage at 473.3). As with the type damage noted by BAL, all of these could have occurred during the course of any printing. A curious feature of this book is the rarely seen "forged title-page" which was not a forged title-page at all, but a cancelled title-page set from new type, and inserted in some copies for unknown reasons by the publisher, who emphatically denied it when questioned, arousing suspicions that it was done to allow the sale of books "sub rosa" to booksellers rather than subscription agents. Twain suspected the American Publishing Company of doing this, but could never prove it. Agents sometimes sold books to booksellers for sale in bookstores in violation of their contract with the publisher, and publisher sometimes undercut their agents by selling directly to booksellers as well. The title-page was proved to have been inserted by the publisher when it was noticed that the tiny red sprinkling of the sheet edges (a common feature of the subscription books) aligned with the edges of the inserted title-page, indicating that it had been inserted before the book was bound. Yet another unusual feature of this book are the numerous dual imprints found on the title-pages. Unlike the subscription books before it, the title-page of THE GILDED AGE contained either the sole imprint of "Hartford: American Publishing Company" or Hartford along with one other city and agent. The other cities thus far noted include Chicago, New York, Syracuse, New Orleans, Cincinnati, Toledo, San Francisco, and Boston. There are probably others. And in this connection, an unusual variant exists. The copies with the San Francisco imprint have been noted with both an integral title-page and a cancelled title-page. The copy with the cancelled title-page was bound in sheep, and the cancel was inserted by the publisher before binding, as evidenced by the red sprinkling, and was presumably done to fill an order from the San Francisco agent at a point when there were not enough sewn copies on hand with the correct imprint. The San Francisco copies of THE GILDED AGE, like THE INNOCENTS ABROAD, usually have the terminal ad leaves excised. These copies with dual imprints can be seen as separate issues, but it must be remembered that the publisher had only to print up the first gathering as needed to fill orders from the various regional agents as they came in, and not all copies with a particular imprint were issued at one time or as a single unit, even though the publisher did view them as separately published units. Yet another variant title-page has recently come to light for this book. It carries a single Hartford imprint and is dated 1874, a commonly seen imprint. But just above the imprint, well-righted, appears a six-pointed asterisk-like ornament, about one-eighth inch in diameter. What this might signify is a mystery, and the status of this copy is uncertain. This copy contains later states of the text, so this change took place well after the earliest copies had been issued. Of several hundred copies examined over the years, this is the first copy so noted, but others have probably escaped notice.

Copies of this book with the repeated lines are rare, especially in fine condition in any binding, and bring $2,000 and more. Other copies with mostly early states, in cloth, plain edges, bring $500 to $1,500, and a little more in the other bindings. Copies in the later states can be found easily for less than $300. In less than fine condition, these prices can begin a rapid slide to as little as one-third of these figures.
 

MARK TWAIN'S SKETCHES. NUMBER ONE. New York: American News Co. [1874] BAL 3360.

This slender pamphlet was Twain's second collection of short fiction and was sold at news-stands. Almost nothing is known of its publication history, but the fact that it was numbered as if intended to be the first in a series gives rise to speculation that Twain or his publisher projected a series of his short works. This may have been in response to the Canadian piracies, some of which had appeared in similar format. Twain had already signed a contract with The American Publishing Company for SKETCHES, NEW AND OLD (1875), so it is unclear whether he or the publishing company was connected with this booklet. In a letter Twain makes a reference to a cheap edition, possibly this printing, and at least two copies autographed by Twain exist, so it is clear he saw copies at some point. But it remains a mystery, and it is not a common title. The front wrapper is a favorite with Twain collectors because it depicts a green frog sitting under a toadstool reading a Mark Twain book.

The wrappers of this title occur in two basic states. In the earliest state the rear wrapper is blank; in the later states it is imprinted with ads for Aetna Life Insurance dated January 1, 1877. BAL notes only one state with the life insurance ads, but two exist: one with a New York agent's imprint, and the other with a Boston agent's imprint, and others may exist as well. Another feature of this second state that BAL overlooks is the fact that the rear wrapper, at least on some copies, was printed after the wrapper had been applied to the sheets. This is detected by turning the last leaf of text in angled light to reveal the "bite" of the type through the rear wrapper, showing a ghost image of the printed wrapper on that final leaf of text. This feature is not found in connection with the front wrapper on any copies of either state, which leads to the logical conclusion that unsold copies of the pamphlet (in wrapper state 1) may have been sold wholesale to the Aetna Life Insurance Company for their promotional use, resulting in wrapper state 2. It is likely that during the time that Aetna Life Insurance was distributing their copies, the American New Company conitnued to sell copies of the first state; the notion that the publisher might have gone out of business or sold off their stock is wrong; the American News Company was still a thriving business in the 1940s.

In the first state, a fine copy will fetch over $1,000, and second state copies follow close behind. With minor edge chips, prices fall off very little, and even in average condition, copies of the first state still bring more than $500, with second state copies trailing close behind.
 

MARK TWAIN'S SKETCHES, NEW AND OLD. Hartford: American Publishing Co., 1875. BAL 3364.

This collection of sixty-three sketches --and they are nearly all short sketches-- contains some of the material that had appeared in his first two collections of short pieces, along with some western writings, and several stories that he had used, and continued to use, in his lectures and public readings. Unlike his previous subscription books, this was no hefty black tome; it was published instead in a squarish binding of bright blue decorated cloth. The binding gave the title as SKETCHES, OLD AND NEW, but the title-page begged to differ. The size of the first printing is unknown, but the book was published in September, 1875 and by the end of November 12,985 copies had been bound. By the end of the year 22,871 copies were bound. Four years after publication 23,556 cloth copies had been sold, along with 1,889 in cloth with gilt edges, 5,145 in sheep, a mere 298 in three-quarter morocco, and just six in full morocco.

The bindings offered for this book were the usual offered for the subscription books. The imprint on every copy is for Hartford and Chicago, and none carry the imprint of any agent. If the publisher had a way of tracing copies of this book back to his regional agents, it has not been discovered. Two states exist and BAL describes them. The first contains a very short story at page 299 that was later removed because it was not by Twain. Johnson points out that the manuscript for that story exists in Twain's handwriting with the name of the supposed author (Jane Stuart Woolsey) crossed out. True enough, but Johnson was unaware that Woolsey was indeed a real woman and had published her story in her very real book published in 1868. Twain may have copied it down for a story idea and included it by mistake with the other sketches. Some copies of the first state have a slip inserted at page 299 explaining that the story was not by Twain; others do not. The other feature of the first state is that a footnote at page 119 is repeated at page 120; in the later states the footnote is removed from page 120. This is all well and good, but a copy exists in mixed state: it has the first state of page 120 and the second state of page 299. Whether this indicates a mixing of sheets between two printings, or a third printing between the two is uncertain, but such copies are so rarely seen that it seems more likely that just a few sets of sheets were mixed. One interesting binding variant exists which uses the blank leaves as paste-downs instead of true end papers, and that copy (second states) also happens to have been given as a gift by Twain in 1877. Twain's own copy, marked for his lecture readings (also with second states), has correct end papers.

Copies with first states of the sheets bring $500 or more in fine condition, and leather copies fetch still more. For fine copies with the second states, cut those figures by half. Very good copies bring roughly half what fine copies bring and are not hard to find, since this book held up a little better than those before it.

THE ADVENTURES OF TOM SAWYER. Hartford: American Publishing Co., 1876. BAL 3369.

It surprises many people to learn that this was Twain's first novel written entirely by himself. It is also his best-selling book, but it wasn't a best seller from the beginning, as often claimed. The first and second printings were only 5,000 copies each, and one month after publication only 9,378 copies had been bound. Two weeks later, on January 8, 1877, only 9,879 copies had been bound: 7,431 in cloth, 748 in cloth with gilt edges, 1,500 in sheep, 200 in three-quarter morocco, and by the end of the first year only 23,638 copies had been sold. By the end of 1879 the number copies sold was just 28,959: 24,241 in cloth, 798 in cloth with gilt edges, 3,620 in sheep, 300 in three-quarter morocco, and 3 in sheets. By 1885 when the sequel (HUCK FINN) was published, sales had increased only by another 6,000 copies.

Like SKETCHES, NEW AND OLD, this book appeared in a squarish binding of bright blue decorated cloth, as well as the usual leather bindings. No full morocco copies were recorded by the publisher and none have surfaced. Both the first and second printings were available on publication day and are found with December inscriptions. BAL describes the first three printings quite nicely, and describes three "issues" --really states-- of the second printing. BAL's "issue A" and "issue B" could represent separate printings, and "issue C" likely represents mixed sheets of A and B, but could in fact represent a separate printing itself. Changes of paper stock, reimposition of plates within the forme, and changes in pagination are the evidence BAL presents for distinguishing the three printings and their variants, but the first printing is of prime interest to the collector. It can be quickly distinguished by the fact that the half-title and frontispiece are printed on separate leaves --they are printed on the same leaf in the later printings --and the entire text is printed on wove paper. One of the "issues" of the second printing is also printed entirely on wove paper, but both the preliminary pagination and the fact that the half-title is printed on the same leaf as the frontispiece make it easy to distinguish from the first printing.

There is a huge variance in the prices between the first and later printings of the first edition. This was a true boy's book, and surviving copies are proof of how rough on books little boys can be. Fine copies are rare. Chipped spines, split joints, and cracked hinges are the norm. A fine copy of the first printing will fetch $10,000 to $15,000 in cloth, and more in the leather bindings. Fine copies of the later printings will fetch $2,000 or more in any binding. Worn copies of the first printing still bring thousands, and worn copies of the later printings trade in the high hundreds.

A TRUE STORY, AND THE RECENT CARNIVAL OF CRIME. Boston: James R. Osgood and Co., 1877. BAL 3373.

This tiny pocket book was issued in Osgood's popular Vest-Pocket Series, which included short works by Emerson, Hawthorne, Longfellow, Whittier, Tennyson, Carlyle, Milton, Pope, and others. It is a very odd pairing of two stories which are related only by the fact that both had appeared originally in 'The Atlantic Monthly.' In fact, 'A True Story' was Twain's first story to appear in that dignified literary journal that epitomized the eastern literary establishment. It is a moving tale told to Twain (who insisted it was indeed a true story) by an ex-slave who tells how her husband and children were sold at auction and how, by chance, her long-lost son eventually finds her. It is told using a framing structure that allows the ex-slave to speak for herself, literally rising to her full stature and dignity, whose authentic black dialect gives the story a quiet power no white narration could have imparted. The structure echoes his early works and the emotional honesty of the narration foreshadows some of Jim's dialogues in HUCK FINN. The other story is a strange fantasy-burlesque in which Twain tells of confronting his conscience one evening in his library, in the form of a shriveled moldy troll. He describes how he was finally able to destroy his conscience and is now blissfully happy without one, although he has since murdered people, burned down a house, and become a swindler of orphans and widows. It's an interesting psychological study, where Twain's sense of the absurd runs at full tilt, and his satirical skills are fully displayed, but the tone and theme share nothing with 'A True Story.'

Nothing is known of the printing history of this little booklet, but the series was well-known, if not successful. It is quite rare and there was probably but one printing, although copies are found in two states of binding. The first has Osgood's "JRO" monogram on the front cover; the second has the Houghton, Osgood "HO" monogram in its place. Both bindings are found in green and terra cotta cloth, with no priority between the two colors.

Fine copies fetch $2,000; very good copies perhaps half as much.

PUNCH, BROTHERS, PUNCH! AND OTHER SKETCHES. New York: Slote, Woodman & Co. [1878] BAL 3378.

In 1875 a nonsensical jingle by Noah Brooks and Isaac Bromley was published in the 'New York Tribune' parodying the instructions to street-car conductors on how to punch their passengers' tickets. Twain wrote a short sketch based on the premise that the jingle is so catchy that he can not get it out of his head, and is driven to distraction before he is finally able to be rid of it by passing it along to somebody else. This collection of nine short pieces was published to take advantage of the popularity of the title story. Nothing is known about the size of the edition.

Barely larger than a pocket-book, this book was issued in two distinct forms, and each form was issued in bright orange printed wrappers and pictorial cloth. BAL notes only blue and green copies, but terra cotta and deep emerald green copies also exist. The first form, which BAL describes as an edition, has Twain's name in a Roman type-face on the title-page. The second "edition" has Twain's name in facsimile autograph and two changes in the text. The signature collations are identical. There are also differences between the wrapper and cloth bindings of both "editions" and BAL describes them in good detail. These "editions" certainly represent two separate printings, but BAL's distinction is curious. The book was deposited for copyright on March 14, and copies were advertised as "ready today" on March 30. A copy was inscribed by the publisher on April 13, and it's worth noting that this copy was a second "edition."

Copies of either printing are scarce in wrappers, and fine copies are rare. The first printing in wrappers fetches $600 or more, and $300 in cloth. The second printing brings $300 in wrappers and $150 in cloth. Very good copies bring two-thirds as much.

A TRAMP ABROAD. Hartford: American Publishing Co., 1880. BAL 3386.

This travel book was an account of Twain's sixteen month tour of Europe in 1878-79, and was the last of his subscription books published in the familiar bulky black cloth. Besides his accounts of Germany, Switzerland, France, and Italy, Twain includes local folklore (some of which he made up) and slips in several sketches that have little or nothing to do with Europe, including one of his most famous comic tales, 'Jim Baker's Bluejay Yarn.' The book appeared the first week of March, and by July 1, it had sold 47,563 copies. At the end of one year, 62,000 copies had been sold. An interesting feature of this book was the publisher's attempt to mark copies with a code identifying the subscription agent who sold the book, in order to discourage sales to bookstores. The back covers usually carry a number stamped near the right; these numbers identified each agent; they have nothing to do with the priority of any given copy. This remained a popular title for many years in America and England, and when the English edition of FOLLOWING THE EQUATOR appeared, it was titled MORE TRAMPS ABROAD to take advantage of this book's popularity.

As usual, customers could order the book with gilt edges, in full sheep, in three-quarter leather, or in full morocco. As with the previous subscription books, the cloth copies hold up better over time than the leather copies which were not made of the best leathers. BAL notes two copies bound in "midnight blue" cloth and speculates that they were experimental bindings. We have handled two such copies and both were stamped the same as regular copies, but the cloth was a very dark blue, that in some light looks very close to the normal black cloth. It should also be mentioned that the black dye in this cloth seems more subject to fading than previous black cloths used by this publisher, and copies sometimes appear dark brown. BAL notes two states of the inserted portrait frontispiece, but as an insert it has no relation to the sheets of the book, and it is found randomly in both early and late sheets. The earliest copies printed were on thicker paper and BAL describes copies that bulk 1 5/8 inches. Later copies bulk 1 3/8 inches, and we have also noted copies that bulked 1 1/2 inches (mixed sheets or a separate printing?). There are numerous typos in the text but since none were corrected during the printings of the first edition, they are not of any use in determining the states of the sheets. Copies are found with the regular frontispiece captioned 'MOSES' which was later changed to 'TITIAN'S MOSES' but before collectors get too excited over this "point" it should be pointed out that Twain mentioned in one of his letters that this book was produced in three different pressrooms. The use of multiple plates reduces the usefulness of the states noted above in determining possible printings. BAL also notes two forms of the cloth binding, with no known priority, based on the blindstamped borders on the covers. I have noted two additional forms of the cloth binding, probably later states, based upon differences in the spine stamping, the most noticeable difference being the change from a filigree decorated gilt rule at the top and bottom, to a saw-tooth decorated gilt rule in its place. One of these copies is in unfaded brown cloth.

This book is fairly common, but fine copies with a preponderance of early states present are tough to find and fetch $500 and up. Later states in nice shape bring $150 to $300, and very good copies bring two-third as much as fine copies. The sheep and three-quarter morocco bindings bring one and half times as much as cloth copies, and full morocco copies are extremely rare.

CONVERSATION, AS IT WAS IT WAS BY THE SOCIAL FIRESIDE IN THE TIME OF THE TUDORS. [Cleveland: Alexander Gunn, 1880] BAL 3388 and 3407.

The story behind this off-color sketch has been told many times, and it has been reprinted many times, completely out of proportion to its relative importance in the Twain canon. It was a parody of Elizabethan speech and manners in which members of Queen Elizabeth's court discuss, in delicate but graphic language, the topics of flatulence, masturbation, and sexual intercourse. He wrote it in 1876 and gave to Reverend Joseph Twichell, his close friend, who circulated the manuscript for a few years. Word spread, and demand grew, until one recipient, John Hay, had four copies printed in unbound proof form by Alexander Gunn in 1880. Two were sent to Twain, and Hay and Gunn each kept one. The demand continued, and Twain allowed fifty copies to be printed by Charles Erskine Scott Wood at West Point in 1882. The booklet was reprinted in various forms in 1894 (45 copies), 1901 (the first published edition, 120 copies), 1903 (75 copies), 1904 (55 copies), 1911 (150 copies), 1913 (75 copies), 1916 (facsimile of the 1901 edition, 125 copies), and 1919 (unknown number of copies). Since 1920 it has been reprinted continuously. During his lifetime, Twain never attached his name to it or include it in his published works, but did acknowledge his authorship privately in a letter that was quickly published in a magazine.

Collectors should not count on getting one of the 1880 proof copies. One copy is in an institution, and one exists only as a tiny fragment, with Twain's note written on the back, sending it to Erskine Scott Wood to use as the copy-text for the 1882 West Point edition. The existence of this inscribed fragment proves, by the way, that the 1882 edition was printed from the 1880 proof text and not from the original manuscript, as many scholars have assumed. The West Point edition of 1882 was the first authorized edition and Twain gave away only half the edition. Of the fifty copies printed, it is said that twenty were on wove paper and the rest on laid paper. Two copies have appeared in the last twenty-five years, selling for $10,000 to $15,000 each. The 1894 edition is not much easier to find. One copy surfaced in 1972 and was resold in 1992. Two other copies surfaced twenty years ago; one went to Yale University, and the other into a private collection. Three copies of the 1901 edition have appeared during the same time, and all are in a private collection. All of this is to say that if a collector can lay hands on a copy published during Twain's lifetime and the price seems reasonable (whatever that means) then buy it, and continue to hope.

An alternative plan would be to consult the checklists published by Irving Haas (Chicago: Black Cat Press, 1936) or Franklin J. Meine (Chicago: Privately Printed, 1939) and find one of the affordable and interesting editions published after 1920. The Haas and Meine checklists were each appended to attractively printed editions of the text itself. The Grabhorn Press produced an attractive little edition in 1925 with an informative preface by Erskine Scott Wood, the text of John Hay's letter to Gunn, and Twain's 1906 letter acknowledging authorship. Merle Johnson produced an edition in 1920 which was the first to include facsimiles of the 1880 and 1882 editions.

THE PRINCE AND THE PAUPER, A TALE FOR YOUNG PEOPLE. Boston: James R. Osgood and Co., 1882. BAL 3402.

This boy's book is a perennial favorite with young readers of Twain's works. Young Tom Canty, a sixteenth century English commoner, is befriended by young Prince Edward VI, and while they are horsing around trying on each others clothes, Edward is mistaken for the commoner and tossed out on the street to fend for himself. As a result he sees first-hand the life of the commoners and when he finally regains his throne, he becomes a compassionate ruler. It is an appealing story at many levels. The first printing of 10,030 copies, as well as the second printing of 5,050 copies were both ready by publication day in December, 1881. Osgood happily reported that he had bound half of the first edition in the leather bindings, and Twain had fits, knowing that the sale for the expensive leather bindings could never be that large. Happily for Osgood, they apparently did sell, as some copies of the later printings are sometimes found in leather. Five days after publication, a third printing of 5,064 copies was completed, and two more printings of 5,000 copies each soon followed.

This was a subscription book, and like those published by the American Publishing Company, it was available in several bindings. The regular binding was green pictorial cloth, which could also be ordered with gilt edges, as well as bindings of full sheep, three- quarter morocco, and three-quarter calf. Twain had a small number printed on China paper and bound in white cloth. Twain thought six or eight copies were done this way; one of the publishing partners said fourteen copies were prepared. A single copy is known in mustard yellow cloth, stamped normally, with gilt edges, and blue- green coated end papers. Another lone copy exists in a distinctive olive green cloth, stamped normally, with plain edges. The status of these last two bindings is unknown. BAL describes two printings of the book, apparently unaware of the publisher's records. The first printing, says BAL, has the Franklin Press printer's slug on the copyright page; the second has the slug of John Wilson. The book was printed simultaneously by both pressrooms, and the publisher's records reveal an interesting pattern: the first printing was ready by November 15, 1881, with twenty of the gatherings printed by Franklin and six by Wilson; the second printing was ready by November 30, with all twenty-six gatherings printed by Franklin; the book was published on December 12, 1881; the third printing was ready by December 17, with all twenty-six gatherings printed by Franklin; the fourth printing was ready by December 24, with twelve gatherings supplied by Franklin and fourteen by Wilson; the fifth printing was ready by March 14, 1882, with all twenty-six gatherings printed by Wilson. Franklin clearly printed most, but not all, of the gatherings first printed (but which gatherings?). The problem is further complicated by the fact that three textual changes were made at the same time between two of those first five printings (but between which two?). The changes were: page 124.1 ("estate" to "state"); page 263.9up ("do not" to "do"); page 362.3up ("reigned" to "reined"). Copies with the Franklin Press imprint are found with both states of the text; and all copies of the John Wilson imprint that have been seen have the corrected state of the text. The sequence seems clear enough, and the evidence points to three printings. The problem is that there are five printings to be accounted for, and not enough evidence to go around. In 1884, Charles L. Webster took over Osgood's stock of Twain's publications, which included 4,550 unfolded sets of sheets for this book, 50 folded sets of sheets, 266 bound copies, 13 boxes of electros, and 2 sets of brasses for the cover stamping (sure enough, BAL notes two states of the cover-stamping, with no priority established).

Collectors will want to look for copies with the Franklin Press imprint and the uncorrected states of the text. Fine copies in cloth fetch $500 or more, and leather copies have sold for much higher prices based on the assumption that they are as rare as leather bindings for Twain's other subscription books, when in fact they are not. The sheep and three-quarter calf bindings are indeed scarce, but the three-quarter morocco binding is nearly as common as cloth. Later states in fine condition still fetch $300, and very good copies are easier to find for $150 to $400, depending on the state of the text and binding style.

THE STOLEN WHITE ELEPHANT ETC. Boston: James R. Osgood and Co., 1882. BAL 3404.

The title-story of this collection of eighteen stories (including all of those previously printed in PUNCH, BROTHERS, PUNCH!) is a wonderful burlesque about a sacred white elephant that is stolen while being transported from Siam, via New Jersey, to Queen Victoria, as a diplomatic gesture of goodwill after the settlement of a dispute. It is an early detective story itself, although the dozens of detectives involved in the search are hopelessly inept. The size of the edition is unknown.

The book is recorded in only one binding, and there was but one printing. BAL describes the cloth as "tan," but it is really a cream pictorial cloth stamped in brown and gilt. Most copies today are indeed tan, having aged with time. When Osgood's business failed a few years after publication his stock was taken over by Charles L. Webster who issued copies of the original sheets with his own cancel title-page. This is not recorded by Johnson or BAL, but the only copy I have seen of this issue is in green cloth with Webster's imprint at foot, and otherwise stamped from the original brasses used on the first edition binding.

The book is common, and fine copies fetch $300. Fine, when applied to nineteenth century books, must take into account conditions that are endemic to the materials used in producing the book. The glue used in applying the cloth to the covers of this book apparently contains iron residue that was not bleached out during manufacture of the glue, resulting in "foxing" of the cloth covers. Even the nicest copies seem to have some hint of this condition, which is more commonly seen in papers produced using cast iron machinery that leached soluble iron into the paper pulp. Copies that don't have the condition yet will have it eventually. Very good copies can be found for $200.

LIFE ON THE MISSISSIPPI. Boston: James R. Osgood and Co., 1883. BAL 3411.

Twain once remarked that he considered this book his masterpiece, the book that would outlive his other works and endure as a classic. Of course, Twain once defined a classic as a book everybody talks about but nobody ever reads, and by that standard, this volume is in no danger of going the way of PARADISE LOST, WAR AND PEACE, or REMEMBRANCE OF THINGS PAST. At first glance it seems to be a travel book, but it is really a highly readable discursive autobiographical account of Twain's boyhood, his region, and of a culture that had radically changed since he left home thirty years earlier. It makes good reading as background for HUCK FINN, and it is such a vivid evocation of the period and people it describes, it may yet endure as a classic. The only thing we know of the printing history is what Twain wrote in 1891: that 50,000 copies were printed and bound, but only 32,000 sold. A contemporary ad also claimed 50,000 had been printed, and promised that 40,000 would be bound by publication day. Either way, the implication is that the unsold copies were re-issued by Charles L. Webster between 1884 and 1891 when he took over Osgood's stock. Copies are found with Osgood's sheets and a Webster cancel title-page, in Webster bindings, dated 1888 and 1891, and copies with Osgood's 1883 title- page intact have been seen in Webster bindings.

As a subscription book, this book was similar in size to the hefty tomes of the American Publishing Company, but the handsome pictorial brown cloth binding ranks with the binding of HUCK FINN as one of the best on a Twain first edition. It could be ordered with gilt edges, in full sheep, three-quarter morocco, and three- quarter calf. I have located only two copies in the publisher's full morocco, each with different blindstamping. BAL nicely describes the first of two states of the sheets: page 441 (illustration of Twain's head in flames, later removed because it disturbed his wife), and page 443 (the caption "The St. Louis Hotel" later corrected to "The St. Charles Hotel"). In BAL's second state, both pages are corrected. But BAL also describes two "intermediate states" in which the two textual changes occur in both possible combinations. The net result is that the two pages occur in all four possible combinations, and the unanswered question is whether this is the result of mixed sheets, multiple plates, or four separate printings.

Collectors try to find copies with both pages in their first states in fine condition. In cloth, such copies can run $600 and up. Leather copies in the first states fetch more than $1,000. Copies in the second states fetch two-thirds of those figures, and copies in "mixed" states fall in between. The book is usually found in very good condition, and worn copies in the second states can be found for $200 or less.


ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN. New York: Charles L. Webster and Co., 1885. BAL 3415.

The publication history and significance of the various textual states found in Twain's masterpiece will be discussed at tedious length in next month's issue, so the bindings will be the focus of attention here. As with his previous subscription books, the regular binding was cloth, in this case a handsome dark green pictorial binding whose illustration of Huck on the front cover has become the model for all subsequent depictions in book illustrations and movies. This book was marketed as the sequel to TOM SAWYER and the prospectus warned customers that those who wanted a blue cloth copy had to specify it or else a green copy would be sent. The book was also offered in cloth with gilt edges, full sheep, and in three-quarter morocco. Sheep copies are the rarest binding, with three-quarter morocco a close second. Blue cloth copies are at least twenty times as rare as green cloth copies, and while the book is not particularly scarce, fine bright copies have become uncommon over the years.

Fine copies of the first printing in either of the leather bindings have increased in price enormously in the past decade, fetching $5,000 and more. Fine copies in blue cloth run close behind, and fine copies in green cloth fetch $3,000. In the second printing, those prices fall by half. In very good condition, prices run about two-thirds of those for fine copies. Shabby copies of this book can easily be found, and sell for a few hundred dollars. What makes the hunt for a collectible copy of this book interesting is the differences of opinion about the market value of the various states of the sheets and frontispiece. Generally, the earlier states fetch slightly higher prices, but most prudent collectors have studied BAL and are not swayed by issue-mongers with a book to sell.


A CONNECTICUT YANKEE IN KING ARTHUR'S COURT. New York: Charles L. Webster & Co., 1889. BAL 3429.

This is one of Twain's most disturbing works, an early science fiction novel in which the hero, Hank Morgan, travels back in time to sixth-century England. The premise allows Twain to poke fun at both sixth-century England and modern America. All political, economic, religious, and social institutions are targets of bitter attacks. The mood is choppy, shifting from light burlesque to despairing diatribes, and back again. Yet Morgan himself is one of the most interesting and conflicted characters to spring from Twain's imagination. The size of the first edition is not known. An interesting feature of this book was the use of adhesive stamps on the rear end paper to identify subscription agents who sold a particular copy, and thereby discourage sale to bookstores. Perforated like postage stamps they were lettered A, B, or C, and numbered. They could easily be removed, and of course, they have nothing to do with the priority of a given copy. Oddly, Webster made no effort to code copies of LIFE ON THE MISSISSIPPI or HUCK FINN, and the method used on this title was not nearly as effective as the simpler and cheaper method used on A TRAMP ABROAD.

The bindings offered on this book varied a little from previous subscription books. The cloth binding was a pale green pictorial binding, but was not available with gilt edges. It was also offered in sheep and three-quarter morocco. And it was offered in full "seal russia." Seal russia is a calf skin treated to look like morocco; the chemical and heat treatment leaves the leather brittle and chemically unstable and surviving copies in this kind of leather are quite rare and usually found in terrible condition. The cloth binding is found with two styles of end papers of unknown priority: geometric and floral. The sheets display several states that have been accepted as indications of priority. At page 59 the caption for the illustration as an extraneous S-like figure that appears between the words "The King" which was later routed out. The last two lines of page 72 occurs with both perfect and broken type. Finally, a very few copies are recorded with a half-title printed on the recto of the frontispiece; known reprints do not have this feature. The problem with all three of these states is that they occur in random combinations, and copies of the book that Twain presented to friends at the time of publication (Christmas, 1889) are found in both early and late states. Most collectors are content with a copy with early states of pages 59 and 72, and any copy with the extremely rare half-title is coveted regardless of the other states.

Cloth copies in fine condition with early states bring $500 or more, and a copy with a half-title might bring double that. Fine cloth copies in the later states bring two-thirds as much. And copies in leather bindings bring a bit more, all other things being equal. Seal russia is too rare to risk speculation.

THE AMERICAN CLAIMANT. New York: Charles L. Webster & Co., 1892. BAL 3434.

This is generally regarded as Twain's least successful novel, in which he tried to recreate the character of Colonel Sellers from THE GILDED AGE. The theme of the claimant --sometimes genuine, sometimes imaginary, and always frustrated --appeared in some form or another in many of Twain's works, including THE GILDED AGE, THE PRINCE AND THE PAUPER, and HUCK FINN. It was hastily written after Twain had spent twenty years investing as much as $3,000 per month in an unsuccessful typesetting machine invented by James W. Paige. Much of the novel concerns the unsuccessful inventions of the ever- hopeful Colonel Sellers, no doubt inspired in part by Paige, who also was a possible model for Hank Morgan of A CONNECTICUT YANKEE.

If there was more than one printing, no significant differences have been found between copies, and nothing has been published about the size of the edition. Issued in the same grey-green pictorial cloth as MERRY TALES, this book was also available in a pale olive green cloth, with no known priority.

The book is common, and fine copies should cost no more than $200; very good copies bring at least $100.

MERRY TALES. New York: Charles L. Webster, 1892. BAL 3435.

This collection of short pieces included 'The Private History of a Campaign That Failed,' an account of Twain's brief and tragic career as a Confederate "soldier." It was published as part of Webster's successful 'Fiction, Fact, and Fancy Series,' whose other titles included a collection of poems by Walt Whitman. The size of the first edition is not known, but surviving copies would suggest there was but one printing of the sheets.


One of the first volumes of the Prentice-Hall New Century Views Series, Eric J. Sundquist's new collection of essays and book excerpts from the 1980s augments (but does not entirely supersede) Henry Nash Smith's Mark Twain: A Collection of Critical Essays (1963), the "Twentieth Century Views" series analog predecessor from the same publisher. Both belong in any library (college, high school, public) to which students go for either research in or comprehension of Mark Twain and his works. Researchers can compare these two volumes for a simplified view of trends in Twain scholarship over the last thirty years.

For example, a quick comparison of the older Twentieth Century Views collection to the New Century Views under consideration shows Smith's collection emphasizes Roughing It over Sundquist's emphasis on Innocents Abroad. They compare almost exactly on the quantity of general material (Twain as "classic" writer) and on Tom Sawyer and Life on the Mississippi, each of the latter two having one essay in each collection. They both treat Huckleberry Finn quantitatively equally with three selections, but Sundquist's collection emphasizes both Connecticut Yankee (three essays) and Pudd'nhead Wilson (two essays) over the coverage of those two works in Smith's volume (one essay each). Bernard DeVoto's essay in Smith on the "Late Twain" is biographical, as is, to some extent, Forrest Robinson's analogous selection in Sundquist.

As editor, Sundquist not only chose well-known Twain scholars (e.g., Louis J. Budd and James M. Cox), but also included other well-known scholars (e.g., African-American biographer Arnold Rampersad). The New Century Views series (as was its predecessor) appears to be aimed at undergraduates and advanced high school students; however, some of the selections in this volume may cast their gaze--or rather, their vocabulary--slightly above that level. In other words, the selections do pique interest and do provide relatively "new views," but students and public library patrons will have to work a bit harder than graduate students or academics at comprehension with some of the essays. These works do not plumb the depths of postmodern theoretical critical density, although some of that discourse, which does appear, may be new to some of these readers. As one example stated to suggest positive use of those theories, consider James Cox's concluding remarks about the present generation of critics and their "problematics, their presences-become-absences, and their aporias."

Nonetheless, college or high school Mark Twain teachers who have not been keeping up with the "Mark Twain Industry," which hums along more reliably than either the Paige typesetter or Hank Morgan's man factories, would do well to acquire this collection to enhance their knowledge and to supplement their teaching. Those who have followed Twain research could also find this volume useful.

One of Sundquist's noticeable strengths is his comprehensive introductory essay, in which he (re)constructs Twain in an ironic way. For example, Sundquist notes Twain's "rhetorical puncturing of Old World artistic or intellectual sublimity" in Innocents Abroad. Sundquist also remarks that Twain "characteristically declared the lessons of the 'old masters' bankrupt" while pointing out the irony that Twain himself has become for many contemporary readers one of the (new?) "old masters." Sundquist's introduction contextualizes the remaining essays, and conflates ideas in Twain's work and in Twain himself with insightful comments such as the following:

Grounded in theories of Anglo-Saxon manifest destiny and popularized in the real life of Theodore Roosevelt, as well as the fictive hero's lives drawn by Owen Wister, Richard Harding Davis, and numerous dime novelists, imperial adventure, Twain maintained, was analogous to slavery in the moral burden that it imposed upon the nation and the sacrifice of humanity it made under the banner of American freedom. Not that Twain himself stood outside responsibility for that sacrifice: nothing is more clear than his recognition of authorial complicity in virtually every crime and frailty his essays and books condemn.
In other words, Twain tried to have it both ways, as we can readily see by the apparent paradoxical personal (especially financial) behavior versus his authorial voice. One need only think of how much Twain relied on Henry Rogers (and indirectly the Standard Oil Company) to clear the path through the complicated financial aftermath of his personal and corporate bankruptcy toward the end of the Gilded Age. About the time Twain emerged from the bankruptcy, he condemned American imperialism in Following the Equator (1897) and, later, in more strident attacks on America's Pacific and Caribbean territorial acquisitions. Is Twain hypocritical like the rest of the "damned human race," to which he also claimed membership? In a word, and to some extent, yes. Sundquist aptly likens Twain's personal case to the nation's economy with "cycles of debt, prosperity, inflation, and collapse." Twain's desire to live an upper-middle class, if not an American aristocratic, life is well known to anyone who reads into Twain's biographies, even his autobiographies.

The table of contents reveals the range of the essays: from Innocents Abroad to "Late Twain." Noticeably missing, however, is much discussion of the tales, sketches, speeches, and essays before the so-called "late" (dark?) Twain period (prior to the 1890s). And while Forrest Robinson's concluding essay does help link the late writings to some of the earlier ones, again, the collection would have fared better had it included more on pre-Pudd'nhead Wilson short works and post-Pudd'nhead Wilson works like Following the Equator and The Mysterious Stranger. The later works, as most Twainians know, have become the object of intense scholarship over the last few years. Publication of the two-volume Library of America's Collected Tales, Sketches, Speeches, and Essays (1992), edited by Louis Budd, has also helped spur scholarly interest in those shorter works--early and late. Granted, it is most likely that teaching Twain's work centers on the "big books" more than on the lesser well-known ones and on the shorter works; and this collection reflects that probable scenario. However, most of the American Literature anthologies commonly used in college courses include such famous short pieces as "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County," "The Whittier Birthday Speech," and "Fenimore Cooper's Literary Offenses." It is difficult to assert as indisputable fact that most college and high school teachers focus on canonical texts like Huck Finn and Connecticut Yankee, but that certainly is my sense of it.

Let us now turn to a tour through some of the essays themselves. Review space limits the commentary here, but I will emphasize the important features of several of the essays in order to characterize the value of the whole collection.

In "A Hero with Changing Faces" (from his 1983 book Our Mark Twain: The Making of His Public Personality ), Louis J. Budd explores the related concepts of Twain as hero and celebrity, grounding his discussion in theories of humor and popular culture. Budd enunciates four problems in judging the authority of "alleged culture-heroes" upon which he bases much of his discussion, the last of which I will elucidate. "The fourth problem is unique to Twain . . . because a sizable part of his late constituency had read little, if any, of his writing," and had never heard his lectures or speeches. From these problems, Budd proceeds to show that Twain bridged high and low culture to the point that he was hero-celebrity in both cultural spheres. Budd's amusing opening anecdotes prefigure this part of his discussion by exemplifying just that sense of celebrity across "cultures." Budd dwells on what he calls Twain's "dominant quality": irreverence, which Budd claims "worked through comedy and gained privileges of frankness from it."

As Budd concludes, however, he states that "the most important social fact about Twain was not humor but Twain as humorist, a likable personality who expanded into a comic hero." Twain accomplished "herohood," Budd asserts, essentially by working at it with "shrewdness, courage, toughness, and perseverance."

Susan Gillman's "The Writer's Secret Life: Twain and the Art of Authorship" (from her 1989 Dark Twins: Imposture and Identity in Mark Twain's America ) examines Twain's differing claims about his "authorial control." Twain likened himself as author to a "passive amanuensis/ unconscious plagiarist [on the grounds that 'all ideas are second-hand']/ . . .unwilling midwife/ proprietor/ father, and finally as the unconscious." Gillman's excerpt touches on most of the Twain oeuvre and asserts that he seemed to settle for an authorial persona that reflects the author's self in the book, but is itself an "alien other, . . . including self-knowledge of which even the self is unconscious."

She proceeds to note Twain's long-term interest in dream analysis, taking "My Platonic Sweetheart" for her text to "[confirm] Twain's habit of articulating perception in binary terms." Gillman applies that notion of duality to assert that "Twain's inquiry into identity. . . [moved] toward the. . . metaphysical. . . and speculative. That is. . .the double conceived as a character gives way to a structural conception of narrative doubling." Discussion of a January 1898 dream Twain recorded in his notebook involving "a negro wench" who propositions (?) the author and vanishes before he can respond with other than a rising stomach concludes Gillman's analysis of identity and authorial control. The entry and Twain's "hierarchy of selves" are "so confused and confusing" that they question epistemological order and "leave open the question posed by the title of one of [his fictional dream tales], 'Which Was the Dream?'. . ."

John Seelye (who wrote the 1970 novel The True Adventures of Huckleberry Finn) designates Tom Sawyer as "a subliminal projection of Sam Clemens" in the role of the Lord of Misrule. Seelye also describes Tom as a Puck-ish character who plays off the Thomas Aldrich Bailey character of the bad boy (The Story of the Bad Boy, 1869) to become the "Good Bad Boy. . .[who] may thenceforth become a Playboy, which is indeed what he does." Seelye's essay in this collection, originally published in Sewanee Review, "What's in a Name: Sounding the Depths of Tom Sawyer " (1982), has also served as the introduction to the Penguin Classics Tom Sawyer. As such, it covers the territory from St. Petersburg to McDougal's Cave, while pointing out that the sequel to the book outshines the original; but (like the book) Tom, "bears careful consideration. Like Hamlet he deserves studying."

Seelye notes that the novel acts like a drama: "of all Mark Twain's books for children [it] most resembles a play." The anomaly, of course, lies in the strict control of action in dramatic form while celebrating "boyhood's free spirit." Seelye identifies as one of the several ironies of both Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn their use of "episodes clearly derived from the adventures concocted by those masters of the historical romance" (Cooper and Scott) whose "literary offenses" Twain recorded in a rather harsh comic castigation.

James Cox's "Life on the Mississippi Revisited" (1984) reinforces Louis Budd's comments about Twain as celebrity by asserting that "It is rather a book in which the life of Samuel Clemens is both converted and enlarged into the myth of Mark Twain." Cox's essay, reprinted from a collection of essays titled The Mythologizing of Mark Twain, develops that assertion by first noting how both the popular audience and the academic or literary audience have celebrated "Twain as a native literary genius." Cox sees this division of audience as an "initial; or 'master' division," the "index to a host of divisions Mark Twain has both represented and excited." Cox suggests the pen name serves as entry point into the divisions and states the books "were made to enlarge him precisely because they could not contain him."

One of Cox's interesting points relates to the alleged "safety" signified by the call "Mark Twain" when used on the steamboats. Far from being only the safe water level, Cox points out the equivalent of the "half-full, half-empty glass": the call could indicate entry into shallower water or passage into deeper water. Cox relates how master pilot Horace Bixby arranged a lesson in humility for the apprentice pilot Sam Clemens in which the call "Mark Twain" rings out in water Clemens thought safe. His reaction causes "a gale of humiliating laughter" to peel forth from Bixby and other witnesses. Thus, Cox claims, we

can begin to see the dimensions of the world Samuel Clemens was inventing under the signature of Mark Twain. It was a world where art was a guild of master and apprentice come into the industrial age of steam; it involved both experience and memory (the master artist and pilot, Bixby, had both to know the river and to remember it); and it was art as a performance before an audience--in other words, public art, or at least art performed in public.
Through a tour de force like this and others in this essay, the master American literature critic turns out a sensitive and sensible performance reifying the importance of Life on the Mississippi on its own (not just as memory refresher for and precursor of Huck Finn).

Of the three essays on Twain's masterpiece, Arnold Rampersad's "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Afro-American Literature" (originally published in the Mark Twain Journal in 1984) most interestingly situates the novel within the context of Ernest Hemingway's famous praise for it in 1935. Rampersad takes the quote through the "cheating" part as well as the more often quoted "All modern American literature comes from one book. . . ." He then inquires if the novel serves that purpose for "black American fiction." Rampersad identifies two ways in which Huck Finn differs from "the bulk of black American fiction": the use of the first-person narrator and the "unbroken relationship. . .between autobiography and dialect." He notes that "countrified speech" liberates Huck's "poetic sensibility" and that few black writers have entrusted their narration "to members of the black folk or the black masses."

Rampersad's essay surveys black fiction as much as it traces the influence of Twain's work. One of his observations about children not being legible in black fiction he relates to the "social reality" described therein as restricting its writers from depicting "young lives relatively free from pain." Another aspect of both black and white American fiction, male bonding, Rampersad declares as negative in "most male black fiction" because of its "antifeminine behavior and values." A third observation concerns comedy in a racial context, of which he notes the dearth in black fiction until Invisible Man. In all these areas, he asserts, Huck Finn "clearly anticipate[s] eventual trends in black fiction."

Its most important prediction of "later black fiction," Rampersad concludes, "is in Mark Twain's depiction of a moral dilemma, or moral inversion, as being at the heart of southern, and by inference American, society." He relates the dilemma to W. E. B. Du Bois's The Souls of Black Folk, constructing it as the fountainhead of black fiction analogous to the place of Huck Finn in Hemingway's appropriately brief and quixotic view of American literary history. But he also places Twain in Huck Finn very near to Du Bois in their affinity, if not in direct influence.

I commend the selections on A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court and on the "late" writings (Forrest Robinson's "The Lie of Silent Assertion: Late Twain"), as well as the other essays in the collection. However, I will conclude the analysis of the individual selections with a close look at Carolyn Porter's 1990 feminist reading of Pudd'nhead Wilson, "Roxana's Plot," one of two intriguing essays on that book (the second: Sundquist's "Mark Twain and Homer Plessy").

Porter contends that traditional readings of Pudd'nhead Wilson (such as James Cox's) have accounted for the patriarchal repression embodied in Wilson's discovery of the murderer and in his role thereby as restorer of the status quo ante. But they have failed to account for Roxy's role as creator of her own plot and its eventual tragic (for her) reversal. Porter addresses Roxy's plot through both the reality and the trope of motherhood, especially slave maternity. Acknowledging the influence of the binary oppositions contained in southern black women's stereotypical roles of "Jezebel" and "Mammy," and the literary conventions contained within the "tragic mulatt[o]" story, Porter nevertheless claims that Roxy creates her own dynamic in the form of her plot to reconstruct her own son as white and wealthy. "In other words," as Porter states, "Pudd'nhead Wilson is the scene of conflict between a repressive paternal plot and a subversive maternal one."

Quoting Orlando Patterson's idea that slavery is a form of social death, Porter shows that Roxy "imitates the slaveholder's dominant position as commutator of a death sentence that he can always revoke" by switching babies. However, Roxy does not actually have the power to enforce the threat of exposing "Tom Driscoll." Porter concludes her essay by stating that Roxy's plot "drives in two directions at once." One direction subverts the white patriarchy (by erasing the name of the [white] father). The other direction "that makes Roxana a powerful weapon in Twain's arsenal" involves the reinscription of "matrilineal rule of descent. . .on the mulatto mother." Roxy's plot, then both drives home the "moral idiocy" of slavery and "exposes the similarity in [the] fates" of the two sons.

An overall negative point of criticism about this collection applies generally to publication of academic research: no doubt because of the time between conception of the ideas and their "birth" into printed books, new research blossoms. Indeed, some of the most exciting scholarship about Twain has been published just before, or nearly coincident with, this collection. I refer most pointedly to Shelley Fisher Fishkin's contested groundbreaking ideas about the influence of African-American voices in American culture, particularly on Twain's composition of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (in Was Huck Black? Mark Twain and African American Voices, 1993). Victor Doyno's revision of his Writing Huck Finn (1991) based on the rediscovered manuscript pages missing for about sixty years will come out later this year or early next year. The work of these scholars merits attention in any comprehensive collection of "new" views on Mark Twain. True, Sundquist's introduction does praise Fishkin's work as a "brilliant and innovative argument" that "has raised a striking set of questions for Twain scholars." And even though both Fishkin's and Doyno's books are listed in the bibliography, one could hope for more than a taste of their views. Legal restrictions concerning publication of the manuscript excerpts and acquisition of rights from other publishers may have influenced the book's final shape in these two cases more than did the editor's judgment. I would also speculate that either the timing of the actual collecting of the essays or the publisher's apparent budget restrictions contribute more to these omissions than does the editor.

A second, minor, complaint about the collection also pertains to the publisher: the lack of an index, a sin of omission rather than commission. Collections of essays like this one (including those from other publishers) frequently omit an index, making them rather difficult for researchers to find a specific reference with ease. As a teacher of the research process to students and also a researcher, I rely heavily on indices for helping to locate information efficiently. (Often errors in the index undermine their usefulness, but that varies from one book to the next.) Other volumes in this series (indeed, in the earlier Twentieth Century Views series as well) lack this valuable research tool. It is clearly the publisher's design, then. Fortunately, the titles of the essays in the Twain collection are not cloyingly deceptive; they do give us clear signals about content.

Despite these quibbles, Sundquist did select a number of fine essays that will bring "new views" into play for American Studies and Literature teachers, especially for those who are not Twain scholars, and for students. A reasonably short collection like this one compares favorably to the slightly broader On Mark Twain: The Best from American Literature, edited by Edwin Cady and Louis J. Budd (1987). Finally, I would recommend the book for all college libraries and for those high school and public libraries with a need for good, compact materials for students and others interested in Mark Twain and his works.

Contents

Introduction: Eric J. Sundquist
A Hero with Changing Faces: Louis J. Budd
The Writer's Secret Life: Twain and the Art of Authorship: Susan K. Gillman
Ants at the Picnic: The Innocents Abroad : Richard Bridgman
What's in a Name: Sounding the Depths of Tom Sawyer : John Seelye
Life on the Mississippi Revisited: James M. Cox
A "Raft of Trouble": Word and Deed in Huckleberry Finn : Lawrence B. Holland
Huck, Jim, and American Racial Discourse: David L. Smith
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Afro-American Literature: Arnold Rampersad
Mark Twain's Frontier, Hank Morgan's Last Stand: Richard Slotkin
Armies and Factories: A Connecticut Yankee : Walter Benn Michaels
Hank Morgan and the Colonization of Utopia: David R. Sewell
Roxana's Plot: Carolyn Porter
Mark Twain and Homer Plessy: Eric J. Sundquist
The Lie of Silent Assertion: Late Twain: Forrest G. Robinson
Chronology of Important Dates
Notes on Contributors
Bibliography

Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *