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. Worn copies of the first printing still bring thousands, and worn copies of the later printings trade in the high hundreds. Boston: James R. Osgood and Co. 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.
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 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. It is quite rare and there was probably but one printing, although copies are found in two states of binding.
Both bindings are found in green and terra cotta cloth, with no priority between the two colors. In 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.
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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 A copy was inscribed by the publisher on April 13, and it's worth noting that this copy was a second "edition. Very good copies bring two-thirds as much. This travel book was an account of Twain's sixteen month tour of Europe in , 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. At the end of one year, 62, copies had been sold.
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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. 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.
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. 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.
The sheep and three-quarter morocco bindings bring one and half times as much as cloth copies, and full morocco copies are extremely rare. 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 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 Two were sent to Twain, and Hay and Gunn each kept one. The booklet was reprinted in various forms in 45 copies , the first published edition, copies , 75 copies , 55 copies , copies , 75 copies , facsimile of the edition, copies , and unknown number of copies.
Since 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 proof copies.
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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 West Point edition. The existence of this inscribed fragment proves, by the way, that the edition was printed from the proof text and not from the original manuscript, as many scholars have assumed.
The West Point edition of 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. The edition is not much easier to find. One copy surfaced in and was resold in Two other copies surfaced twenty years ago; one went to Yale University, and the other into a private collection.
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Three copies of the 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.
Meine Chicago: Privately Printed, and find one of the affordable and interesting editions published after 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 with an informative preface by Erskine Scott Wood, the text of John Hay's letter to Gunn, and Twain's letter acknowledging authorship.
Merle Johnson produced an edition in which was the first to include facsimiles of the and editions. 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, copies, as well as the second printing of 5, copies were both ready by publication day in December, 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, copies was completed, and two more printings of 5, 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 book was printed simultaneously by both pressrooms, and the publisher's records reveal an interesting pattern: the first printing was ready by November 15, , 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, ; 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, , 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 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 , Charles L. Webster took over Osgood's stock of Twain's publications, which included 4, unfolded sets of sheets for this book, 50 folded sets of sheets, 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.
The sheep and three-quarter calf bindings are indeed scarce, but the three-quarter morocco binding is nearly as common as cloth. 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.