New York: Charles L. Webster and Company, 1885. Item #03954
First American Edition of “Huckleberry Finn,” First Printing
A Near Fine and Untouched Copy
TWAIN, Mark. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Tom Sawyer’s Comrade). With one hundred and seventy-four illustrations. New York: Charles L. Webster and Company, 1885.
First American edition, with the following “traditional” bibliographical points: the title-page is a cancel, with the copyright notice dated 1884 (BAL second state, with the first state only noted in publisher’s prospectuses and advanced sheets); p. , the illustration captioned “Him and another Man” is incorrectly listed as at p. 88 (BAL first state); p. 57, the eleventh line from the bottom reads “with the was” instead of “with the saw” (BAL first state); p. 283 is a cancel, with the engraving redone and the line indicating the fly on Silas Phelps’s trousers a straight vertical line (BAL third state, the earliest known to appear in cloth-bound copies of the book); p. 155, the final “5” in the pagination is missing (BAL first state); the frontispiece portrait has the imprint of the Heliotype Printing Co. and the tablecloth, or scarf, on which the bust rests not visible (BAL second state).
Octavo (8 7/16 x 6 9/16 inches; 210 x 167 mm.). 366, [2, blank] pp. Inserted frontispiece portrait and wood-engraved text illustrations. Complete with the final blank leaf (signature 23/8).
Original dark green cloth pictorially stamped and lettered in gilt and black on front cover and spine. Original pale peach endpapers. The absolute minimum of rubbing to corners and spine extremities. Tiny tear (1/4 inch) in the lower blank margin of leaf 7/1 (pp. 97/98). Occasional very minor marginal soiling. An exceptionally bright and totally untouched copy. Chemised in a quarter olive morocco over marbled boards slipcase.
“In November , after the first printing was finished and before the second printing of 10,000 copies was begun (the third printing of another 10,000 copies did not follow until March, 1885), the plates were corrected to reflect three changes in the text: at page 13 the erroneous page reference ‘88’ was changed to ‘87’; at page 57 the misprint ‘with the was’ was corrected to ‘with the saw’; and at page 9 [the ‘Contents’ leaf] the misprint ‘Decided’ was corrected to ‘Decides.’ This last change was overlooked by Johnson, BAL, and every other bibliographer, but was noted by the Iowa-Berkeley editors of HUCK FINN. Because these three changes are documented as having been made between the first and second printings, they can absolutely distinguish the first and second printing sheets from each other. While mixing of sheets can sometimes occur during the collating or binding process, no copy of HUCK FINN has been found that does not have all three of these changes present, or all three absent. That strongly suggests that no mixing of first and second printing sheets took place. Unlike those changes made between the two printings, the corrections made to the plates during the course of the first printing are of no use in distinguishing between the two printings…By early November, the sheets of HUCK FINN were being forwarded for binding, and within a week or two it was discovered that the illustration at page 283 had been altered in the master plate to make it appear as if Uncle Silas was exposing his penis…By the time the ribald alteration (that's BAL's term, not mine) was discovered, the first printing was finished, and some sheets may have been in bindings, some sheets had been gathered and sewn, and some were collated but not yet sewn…No copies of the book, in cloth or in leather, show clear evidence of having had page 283 cancelled after binding. All surviving copies that contain the cancelled page, when closely examined, show evidence that the cancel took place after the sheets were sewn, but before they were nipped and trimmed for casing into the binding…In addition to the obscene illustration, a change was made in the plate for the copyright page, correcting the copyright date from 1885 to 1884. No copies of the book exist with the 1885 copyright page in uncancelled state, including copies in leather…Readers familiar with the traditional bibliographical ‘points’ of HUCK FINN may object that I have dismissed those ‘points’ that involve damaged plates (the missing ‘l’ in the illustration at page 143 that was replaced at some point; the three states of page 155 involving the replacement of the final ‘5’; the signature mark at page 161 that was missing, but eventually replaced). Because these resulted from damage to the plates at various points within the course of the first printing, and repairs could have been made to some plates while not to others, they are of no significance in determining the sequence of the printing of the sheets…All of these occur at random in relation to each other within copies of the first printing, a strong indicator of the use of multiple plates, and possibly mixed sheets within the collating process. Finally, the signature mark at page 161 has never been found in a copy of the first or second printing, so it hardly warrants discussion” (See Kevin MacDonnell, “Huck Finn among the Issue-Mongers,” Firsts The Book Collector’s Magazine, Volume 8, Number 9 (September 1998), pp. 28-35).
BAL 3415. Grolier, 100 American, 87. Johnson, Twain, pp. 43-50. McBride, pp. 92-112.