"ONE OF THE MOST DURABLE WORKS IN AMERICAN LITERATURE": FIRST EDITION, FIRST STATE OF TOM SAWYER, ONE OF ONLY A FEW HUNDRED COPIES IN SCARCE PUBLISHER'S MOROCCO-GILT
TWAIN, Mark. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Hartford: American Publishing Company, 1876. Square octavo, publisher's three-quarter brown morocco gilt recased into original binding with endpapers and headbands renewed, raised bands, all edges gilt. Housed in a custom chemise and half morocco slipcase. $46,000.
First American edition, first state, of one of the uncontested, great masterpieces of American literature—and "one of the few books enjoyed by readers of every age… The captivating myth of the little town of long ago on the bank of the Great River" (LeMaster & Wilson, 12, 15)—in scarce handsome publisher's morocco-gilt.
"The first novel Mark Twain wrote without a co-author, Tom Sawyer is also his most clearly autobiographical novel… Enlivened by extraordinary and melodramatic events, it is otherwise a realistic depiction of the experiences, people and places that Mark Twain knew as a child" (Rasmussen, 459). Originally published in England (without illustrations), Tom Sawyer arrived at a momentous point in American history: Custer had recently lost the battle at Little Big Horn and America was celebrating its centennial. "Publication of Tom Sawyer was little noticed… The book has, however, proved to be one of the most durable works in American literature. By the time of Twain's death, it was his top-selling book. It has been in print continuously since 1876, and has outsold all other Mark Twain works" (Rasmussen, 459). "This was a true boy's book, and surviving copies are proof of how rough little boy's can be on books" (MacDonnell, 40). First printing, first state (with "THE" on half title in 10-point rather than 14-point type), printed on wove paper, with preliminary matter paginated [I]-XVI. This copy with no flyleaves at front and one flyleaf at rear: "The number [of flyleaves] varies and thus far no study of the book reveals a preferred state. It would appear that the number of leaves was dependent wholly upon the whim of the individual binder, a questionable quantity that cannot be analyzed" (Peter Parley to Penrod, 43). The endpapers have been renewed to secure the text block in its original binding. As noted above, commercial success came slowly for the title: "The first and second printings were only 5000 copies each, and one month after publication only 9378 copies had been bound," only 200 of which were bound as here, in the publisher's three-quarter morocco-gilt; "by the end of 1879 the number of copies sold was just 28,959," only 300 of which were bound in the publisher's three-quarter morocco (MacDonnell, 39). BAL 3369. Johnson, 27-30. MacDonnell, 39-40. MacBride, 40.
Interior generally clean, endpapers renewed, with faint traces of original peach endpapers present. Minor color restoration to corners. An extremely attractive copy, most rare and desirable in the scarce publisher's morocco-gilt.