Our Top Five pieces of Mark Twain memorabilia

Samuel Langhorne Clemens (1835-1910), better known by his pen-name of Mark Twain, is often regarded as 'the greatest American humorist of his age' (notably in his New York Times obituary).

Best remembered for his works with the heroes Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, he was a prolific writer of both fiction and non-fiction, and held pronounced views against slavery, racism and war, whilst presenting celebrated speeches in favour of women's rights and labour unions.

Here's a look at five covetable collectibles associated with the great man:

A watercolour of Tom Sawyer

Indirectly connected to Clemens, but attractive for anyone interested in his works is a painting sold at Heritage auctions in 2006.

The painting of Tom Sawyer Fishing was attributed to Howard Pyle, the founder of the Brandywine School, and presents a classic image of the hero fishing on a summer's day with a friend and his dog. The piece sold for $2,270.50.

The double-signed photograph

A particularly charming photograph sold at Bonhams in June 2008 for $9,000, signed by its subject twice. The 1898 photo of Clemens is signed for the wife of Arctic explorer and humanitarian worker, Fridtjof Nansen, both 'Mark Twain' and 'SL Clemens'.

Mark Twain Clemens Signed Photo
Mark Twain/Samuel L Clemens Signed Photo

The inscription reads, "He had his desire—he has seen the pole; I have had mine, for I have seen him / Mark Twain / To Mrs Frithjof Nansen With best salutations of SL Clemens / May, 1898".

The Celebrated Jumping Frog

Often outselling first editions of his more famous works at auction, for example at Bonhams in October 2009, are copies of Twain's first ever work: The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.

Mark Twain's Celebrated Jumping Frog
Mark Twain's Celebrated Jumping Frog

In 2003, a first issue of the first edition in its original cloth outdid its $15,000-30,000 estimate to sell for $45,410 at Christie's.

The unfinished sequel

In February 2008, a mysterious document brought $16,730 at Heritage auctions. Mark Twain intended a sequel to The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer Among the Indians. Indeed, he was doing research for it whilst the first book was still waiting to be published.

However, after 15,000 words, the original manuscript breaks off in mid-sentence. Why Clemens never completed the work we will never know, but it remains a unique and valuable piece of memorabilia for any collector.

The original Huckleberry Finn

Last, but by no means least, is the publisher's copy of the first bound Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, which sold at Christie's in June 2004.

The book contains a lithographed frontispiece by E.W. Kemble, photographic portrait frontispiece of the bust of Mark Twain by Karl Gerhardt and illustrations in text by Kemble. It is encased in the original publisher's dark-brown half morocco binding.

It is the only copy of the work with a dedication which does not appear elsewhere:

"To the Once Boys & Girls
who comraded with me in
the morning of time &
the Youth of antiquity, in the village of
Hannibal, Missouri,
This book is inscribed, with
affection for themselves,
respect for their virtues,
& reverence for their
honorable gray hairs.
The Author"

The book caused frenetic bidding, and easily beat its $100,000 - $150,000 estimate to sell for $265,100.

Collectors of Twain memorabilia will be delighted to know that various manuscripts and autographs associated with him will be sold this year in the first of the three remaining auctions of the James S Copley Collection on June 17. We will bring you more on that closer to the time.


Featured products

Elvis Presley Authentic Strand of Hair
Elvis Presley Authentic Strand of Hair
Sale price£399
In stock
Fidel Castro signed certificateFidel Castro Signed Certificate
Fidel Castro signed certificate
Sale price£2,995
In stock
King Henry VIII Autographed DocumentKing Henry VIII Autographed Document
King Henry VIII Autographed Document
Sale price£55,000
In stock