“THE MOST PRAISED AND MOST CONDEMNED 19TH-CENTURY AMERICAN WORK OF FICTION”: FIRST EDITION OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN, ONE OF ONLY ABOUT 500 COPIES IN ORIGINAL PUBLISHER’S MOROCCO
TWAIN, Mark. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Tom Sawyer's Comrade). New York: Charles L. Webster, 1885. Octavo, original three-quarter brown morocco and marbled boards rebacked with original gilt-decorated spine laid down, marbled endpapers and edges. $12,000.
First edition, first issue, of “the most praised and most condemned 19th-century American work of fiction” (Legacies of Genius, 47), with 174 illustrations by Edward Kemble, one of approximately 500 copies bound in publisher’s three-quarter morocco binding.
Written over an eight-year period, Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has endured critical attacks from the moment of its publication. Accused of "blood-curdling humor," immorality, coarseness and profanity, the book nevertheless remains one of American literature's defining novels. Ernest Hemingway praised it when he declared, "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." Copies in the original publisher's leather bindings are quite rare: "The relative rarity of the cloth and leather bindings is clear. Less than two weeks before publication, [publisher] Webster announced that he was binding 20,000 copies in cloth, another 2500 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). The printer assembled copies of Huckleberry Finn haphazardly and bibliographers have yet to agree as to the priority of many points. This copy has all of the commonly identified first issue points: page  with "Decided" remaining uncorrected (to "Decides"); page , illustration captioned "Him and another Man" listed as on page 88; page 57, 11th line from bottom reads "with the was." Debate continues over the priority of other points of issue and state. This copy contains the following points of bibliographical interest: frontispiece portrait, bearing the Heliotype Printing Co. imprint, without cloth table cover under bust and with "Karl Gerhardt, Sc." added to shoulder's edge; copyright page dated 1884; page 143 with "l" missing from "Col" and broken "b" in "body" on line seven; page 155 with final "5" missing; page 161 without signature mark "11;" page 283-84 a cancel (Kemble's illustration with straight pant-fly) as described by Johnson (page 48) and MacDonnell (pages 32-33). BAL 3415. Johnson, 43-50. MacDonnell, 29-35. McBride, 93. Grolier American 87.
Interior clean, slightest rubbing to binding. An excellent copy of an American high spot in the elusive publisher's morocco.