T'ain't nothin' collectors still value of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Today, February 18, in 1885 a writer by the name of Samuel Langhorne Clemens had a book published, one which is generally considered one of the Great American novels: Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, issued under Clemens's pen name of Mark Twain.

Popular on its release, and continually so from then on, the work has been the subject of study by literary critics. Sometimes it has been also been seen as controversial as it includes racist language (though an anti-racist outlook).

The book has always been a hit at auction. In 2006, Heritage sold a first edition, first printing copy of the work, bearing the printing date of 1884 and showing Twain/Clemens's own publishing company Charles L Webster.

That brought $7,170, but other texts related to the book have caused more competition:

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.

Huckleberry Finn
A first edition, first printing of Huckleberry Finn

At Christie's in 2005, Mark Twain's personal copy of the first American edition of the work, signed by the man himself went under the hammer. Previously part of the well known Norman and Cynthia Armour collection it was listed at $20,000-$30,000 but finally left the stage for a startling $108,000.

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.


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