New York: C.H. Webb, Publisher, 1867. Item #03950
An Exceptional Copy
TWAIN, Mark. The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, and Other Sketches. By Mark Twain [pseud.]. Edited by John Paul [pseud. of Charles Henry Webb]. New York: C. H. Webb, Publisher, 1867.
First edition of author’s first published book, first issue (single ad leaf on cream-yellow paper inserted before title; Folio 21, "1" in "21" unbroken; p. 66, last line, "e" in "life"; p. 198, “i” in “this” unbroken).
Twelvemo (6 11/16 x 4 7/16 inches; 170 x 113 mm.). [1, blank] [1, publisher’s ad] 198, [2, blank] pp.
Original brown gilt-lettered, 'diamond bead' cloth. Upper cover with gilt-stamped jumping frog in vertical position in center, lower cover with blind-stamped jumping frog in the same position, beveled edges, brown coated end-papers. Early ink name on top blank margin of title-page. Minimal rubbing to spine tips and lower corners, otherwise near fine. One of the best, untouched copies that we have ever seen. Housed in a custom made, fleece-lined, full dark green morocco clamshell case with the cover designs repeated.
"This [the frog] is usually placed at the lower left corner in a diagonal position with the head pointing to the upper right corner. In some copies the frog is stamped in the center of the cover in a vertical position with the head pointing up." (BAL, 3310). Although no priority is given the frog in the center of the upper cover is far rarer than the usual left-hand corner stamping.
Mark Twain, with his account of the jumping frog, produced the most famous tale in California, if not Western, history. This little gem of humor that introduced the famed author’s first book gave him international prominence. As his publisher, Charles Henry Webb, noted, “By his story of the Frog, he scaled the heights of popularity at a single jump.” Twain’s compilation of tales, along with those of Bret Harte, continues to romanticize and popularize the Gold Rush. The story of the lead-loaded frog (named Daniel Webster) made Angels Camp one of the best-known tourist attractions in the gold country.
Twain first learned of the story of the jumping frog when he prospected in the vicinity of Jackass Hill in Tuolumne County. On a rainy January day in 1865 Twain and a friend, James Gillis, went into the bar at the Angels Camp Hotel in nearby Calaveras County and heard a gentlemen by the name of Ben Coon tell the amusing story of the trained frog. He repeated the story to Artemus Ward, who in turn encouraged him to write it up and send it to Ward’s publisher, Carleton, in New York. Carleton was not impressed and sent the story on to Henry Clapp who published it in the final issue (November 18, 1865) of the Saturday Press of New York with the title of “Jim and His Jumping Frog.” The tale’s popularity spread across America and Europe. When it reached San Francisco, the story was reprinted in the Californian, a weekly periodical published by Charles Webb. The Californian featured one major change, a new title: “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.” Encouraged by the huge response, Webb urged his author to publish a book of his Western yarns. The book, packed with twenty-seven short stories, appeared in May 1867, bound in cloth with a beautiful gold-stamped frog emblazoned on the front cover. Webb himself provided the foreword, writing under the name of John Paul, and the American News Company served as the distribution agent. It sold for $1.25 a copy. Printed with stereotype plates, slightly different issues bound in various colors of cloth were produced, and in September 1867, George Routledge & Sons of London published a wrapper-bound edition embellished with a spectacular frog. Although no priority has been established in regards to the placement of the frog on the covers, it is considerably rarer to find it in this vertical position.
Oscar Lewis traced the history of this famous tale in The Origin of “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.” According to Lewis’s scholarly investigation, a version of the frog story first appeared in the June 11, 1853, Sonora Herald as “A Toad Story,” and then in the December 11, 1858, issue of the San Andreas Independent.
BAL 3310. Bennett, American Book Collecting, p. 137n. Cowan I, p. 49. Cowan II, p. 130. Hart, Companion to California, pp. 85-86. Howell 50, California 377. Huntington Library, Zamorano 80...Exhibition of Famous and Notorious California Classics 17. Johnson, Twain, pp. 3-9. LC, California Centennial 249. Norris 3977. Streeter Sale 2910. Walker, San Francisco’s Literary Frontier, pp. 193-96. Wheat, Books of the California Gold Rush 43. Wright II:548. Zamorano 80 #17. Additional sources consulted: Merle Johnson, A Bibliography of the Works of Mark Twain (New York & London: Harper & Brothers, 1935), pp. 3-9; Oscar Lewis, The Origin of “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” (San Francisco: The Book Club of California, 1931); George Williams III, Mark Twain and the Jumping Frog of Calaveras County (Carson City: Tree by the River Publishing, 1999).