"THE MOST PRAISED AND MOST CONDEMNED 19TH-CENTURY AMERICAN WORK OF FICTION": FIRST EDITION OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN, , WITH RARE "CURVED FLY" ILLUSTRATION, 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, elaborately gilt-decorated spine, marbled endpapers and edges. Housed in a custom half morocco clamshell box. $26,000.
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 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 further contains the following points of bibliographical interest: frontispiece portrait, bearing the Heliotype Printing Co. imprint, without the cloth table cover under the bust and with "Karl Gerhardt, Sc." added to the 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 the final "5" missing; page 161, no signature mark "11"; the leaf containing pages 283-84 is the rare conjugate (Kemble's illustration is version with "curved" pant-fly, prior to defacement. The "curved fly" was straightened in subsequent issues).
BAL 3415. Johnson, 43-50. MacDonnell, 29-35. McBride, 93. Grolier American 87.
Only slightest wear to binding (boards only; morocco spine and corners exceptional). A beautiful copy in the rare publisher's three-quarter morocco.