Zane Grey’s Copy; First Edition of Mark Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

  • Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
  • Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.


Item Number: 3733

New York: Charles L. Webster and Company, 1885.

First edition of Mark Twain’s masterpiece. Octavo, original publisher’s decorated green cloth, with 174 illustrations by Edward W. Kemble. Author Zane Grey’s copy, with his blindstamp to the front free endpaper and first blank. “Less than two weeks before publication, [the publisher] Webster announced that he was binding 20,000 copies in cloth, another 2,500 in sheep, and 500 copies in three-quarter leather. The remaining 7000 copies of the first printing were probably bound up in similar proportions. Leather copies dried out, cracked apart, and have survived in even fewer numbers than the original production numbers would promise” (MacDonnell, 35). Copies were assembled haphazardly by the printer and there is yet to be agreement among bibliographers as to the priority of many first edition issue points, however, the present volume contains the three commonly identified first issue points for the clothbound book: p. 9 Chapter VI. “Huck Decided to Leave” (corrected to “Huck Decides to Leave” in second printing); p. 13 “Him and another Man” p. 88 (corrected to p. 87 in second printing); and p. 57 11th line from bottom: “with the was” (corrected to “with the saw”). Also with the additional points of bibliographical interest with debated priority: the frontispiece portrait without cloth table cover under the bust bearing the Heliotype Printing Co. imprint; p. 143 Co. Grangerford (corrected to Col. Grangerford) and broken ‘b’ in body on line 7; p. 155 with the broken final ‘5’ (Johnson, 43-50; MacDonnell, 29-35; BAL 3415; McBride, 93). As to issue points resulting from damaged plates (e.g. the dropped “5” on p 155), MacDonnell concludes, “they are of no significance in determining the sequence of the printing of the sheets. All of these occur at random in relation to each other within copies of the first printing, a strong indicator of the use of multiple plates, and possibly mixed sheets within the collating process” (“Huck Finn” Firsts Magazine). A nice association copy linking these two great American writers. Housed in a full morocco clamshell case.

Twain initially conceived of the work as a sequel to The Adventures of Tom Sawyer that would follow Huckleberry Finn through adulthood. Beginning with a few pages he had removed from the earlier novel, Twain began work on a manuscript he originally titled Huckleberry Finn's Autobiography. Twain worked on the manuscript off and on for the next several years, ultimately abandoning his original plan of following Huck's development into adulthood. He appeared to have lost interest in the manuscript while it was in progress, and set it aside for several years. After making a trip down the Hudson River, Twain returned to his work on the novel. Upon completion, the novel's title closely paralleled its predecessor's: Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Tom Sawyer's Comrade). Twain composed the story in pen on notepaper between 1876 and 1883. Paul Needham, stated, "What you see is [Clemens'] attempt to move away from pure literary writing to dialect writing." For example, Twain revised the opening line of Huck Finn three times. He initially wrote, "You will not know about me", which he changed to, "You do not know about me", before settling on the final version, "You don't know about me, without you have read a book by the name of 'The Adventures of Tom Sawyer'; but that ain't no matter." The revisions also show how Twain reworked his material to strengthen the characters of Huck and Jim, as well as his sensitivity to the then-current debate over literacy and voting. Ernest Hemingway once declared about The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, "All modern literature comes from one book by Mark Twain. It’s the best book we’ve had. All American writing comes from that. There was nothing before. There has been nothing since."

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