New "Huckleberry Finn" by UC Berkeley's Mark Twain Project reflects recovered manuscript, original art, new research
Berkeley - Armed with the long lost first half of the
original manuscript of Mark Twain's "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,"
editors at the University of California, Berkeley, are shining new
light on lingering mysteries involving the American classic.
The only authoritative text based on the complete original manuscript
of "Huckleberry Finn" hits bookstores this month. It is the product
of painstaking research by the Mark Twain Project at UC Berkeley's
Bancroft Library that began shortly after the manuscript's first half
was uncovered in a Hollywood attic in 1990.
The book rewards readers with new and ample information to help
answer questions that have perplexed "Huckleberry Finn" fans and to
present enough new ironies to intrigue them all over again.
"I think there's a whole lot that's new here," said Lin Salamo, one
of the book's editors.
"Huckleberry Finn" is not just a humorous good story about a
charming American bad boy from the idyllic pre-Civil War days, his
friendship with a runaway slave and battles with his conscience. The
book is considered Twain's best work, as well as a compelling
commentary of American race relations, class and violence that is as
provocative today as when published in 1885.
The book's popularity continues, as witnessed by the more than 100
editions of the book in more than 53 languages and its presence not
only in books around the world but on CD, audiotape and e-book.
"One hundred and fifteen years after its publication, critics and
scholars are still scouring the book for what is real - for clues to
the actual counterparts of its fiction - attempting somehow to grasp
the essence of what it says about American history and culture,"
editors of the latest "Huckleberry Finn" write in its foreword.
Editors Salamo and Victor Fischer, who worked with Harriet Elinor
Smith and the late Walter Blair, have explored the original
manuscript, scholarly critiques of the book, Twain's notebooks,
speeches, letters, essays and interviews. They compare and contrast
them with popular songs and cultural practices, hymns, Biblical
references, obituary poetry and even ad slogans of the era.
The layers and layers of information about Twain and the book are
presented "not so you're led by the hand, but so that you're given
the tools to make an interpretation," said Fischer. "You can mine
this novel for so much cultural and historical information that is
still relevant today. And we can now answer questions that we never
could before we had access to the entire manuscript."
When did Twain, for example, really begin writing "Huckleberry
Finn?" The answer: 1876. He handed over a final, typed manuscript to
the typesetter in 1884.
By following his work on types of stationery that he used at
different times, and tracing his writing medium as it ranged from
black ink to purple and blue ink to pencil, the editors pinpointed
the three periods during which Twain wrote various portions of the
No, the editors concluded, Twain did not - as long thought -
pigeonhole the manuscript after Chapter 16 and the steamboat crash.
He actually wrote two more chapters, and then he did put the book
aside - for about three years - and then again for another three
years, taking seven years to finish it.
Editors of the book published by the University of California Press
are excited to show side-by-side for the first time Twain's earliest
draft and his final revisions and to show how his most famous
characters and story evolved. Each half of the manuscript contains
more than 1,700 revisions by the author, with 88 percent of them reflected in word changes, spelling,
punctuation and emphasis, the editors report.
"We have a database that analyzes every word he used," said Salamo.
This "library edition," designed mainly for the general reader and
for the classroom, updates the Mark Twain Project's 1985 version of
"Huckleberry Finn" in numerous ways:
… It includes facsimiles of 16 key pages of the manuscript that show
crucial moments in the book's composition.
… It also contains three passages from the manuscript that do not
appear in the book in the same form, if at all. One is a ghost story
omitted from the book. Another is Huck Finn's description of sunrise
on the river, which indicates dramatic changes after the manuscript,
and a third passage about a camp meeting that underwent substantial
rewriting on the original page, and still more before the book's
… There also is a glossary of terms, notes and almost 40 pages of
reference citations ranging from "Arabian Nights" and H.L. Mencken
to Robert Louis Stevenson and Noah Webster.
… It also includes all 174 first-edition pen and ink illustrations by
young cartoonist Edward Windsor Kemble, artwork generally left out of
most contemporary editions of "Huckleberry Finn."
… The latest edition also features new maps of the Mississippi that
help readers navigate Huck Finn's journey.
… The book also shows that "break dancing" was popular in the
pre-Civil War days and adapted from African dances.
… Kemble's drawing of Huck and Jim's first encounter shows Jim on his
one knee, hat in hand. Far from a demeaning depiction of the runaway
slave, the sketch is almost identical to a widely known graphic
symbol of the campaign to end slavery.
… Another sketch in the book of Jim's "coat of arms" - a slave figure
toting a knapsack over one shoulder and running - is virtually the
same as the image commonly used in newspaper notices about runaway
Solving a primary puzzle, the Twain project team also concluded that,
although Twain repeatedly interrupted his writing, the breaks
coincided with other pressures or a need to finesse a character or
solve a problem with the plot. The new edition of "Huckleberry Finn"
traces how Twain developed Huck's sensibility and capacity for
articulating his thoughts.
Having the whole manuscript at last made it possible to trace how
Twain labored over his story and style and how he learned slowly and
through thousands of revisions to develop and transfer Huck's
inimitable voice onto the page. These records show him replacing the
word "forest" with "woods," "wasn't" with "warn't" and "the whole
world was dead asleep" with "the whole world was asleep, only
sometimes the bull-frogs a-cluttering, maybe."
Kemble's drawing of Huck Finn and runaway slave Jim, drifting down
the Mississippi River on a raft, graces the cover. The book is
dedicated to teachers who continue to make "Huckleberry Finn" a
welcome guest in their classrooms.
Twain scholars already are raving about the new work.
Louis J. Budd, author of "Our Mark Twain" and "Mark Twain:
The Contemporary Reviews," said that, due to the UC Berkeley
research, "we now have the genome filled in for 'Adventures of
Shelley Fishkin, editor of "The Oxford Mark Twain," and "Was Huck
Finn Black?" said the "ingenious textual detective work rescues Twain
at last from hundreds of careless errors by typists, typesetters and
The Mark Twain Project houses the world's largest collection of
manuscripts, letters and notebooks of author Samuel Clemens, who
wrote under the pen name of Mark Twain. The project aims to publish
70 authoritative editions of his work by the year 2010, the 100th
anniversary of the writer's death.
NOTE: For more information, contact book editors Victor Fischer or
Lin Salamo or Robert H. Hirst, general editor of the Mark Twain
Project, at (510) 642-6480. The Web site of the Mark Twain Papers and
Project is at http://library.berkeley.edu/BANC/MTP/#Archive. A photo
gallery of a few of the illustrations in the new book is at