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the true first edition, preceding the American edition

Twain, Mark. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

London: Chatto and Windus, 1876

Original red cloth. Two gatherings a little loose. Minor wear. A very good copy. Half morocco case.

First edition of the iconic American “Boy’s Book.” Twain’s first novel written without a co-author, Tom Sawyer “proved to be one of the most durable works in American literature. By the time of Twain’s death, it was his top-selling book. It had been in print continuously since 1876, and has outsold all other Mark Twain works” (Rasmussen).

Tom Sawyer was the first printed story of a boy in which the hero was recognizable as a boy throughout the whole narrative … until Tom Sawyer was written, nearly all the boys of fiction were adults with a lisp, or saintly infants, or mischievous eccentrics … in the work of Dickens there were hints of boys that were boys; but Tom was the first full blown boy in all fiction … the book is a landmark” (Booth Tarkington).

This novel of a boy growing up along the Mississippi River is set in a town called St. Petersburg, inspired by Samuel Clemens’s hometown of Hannibal, Missouri. The author may have been named Tom after a San Francisco fireman whom he met in June 1863. The real Tom Sawyer was a local hero, famous for rescuing ninety passengers after a shipwreck in 1853. The two were friendly during the author’s years in California, often drinking and gambling together. Twain referred to the real Tom Sawyer in Roughing It, but in later years he claimed that he himself was the model for Tom and that “‘Sawyer’ was not the real name … of any person I ever knew, so far as I can remember” (see Smithsonian, October 2012).

This first edition was issued in England on June 9, 1876, preceding the American edition by six months. It proved to be his most popular work in his lifetime: “by the time Mark Twain died, it was his top selling book” (Rasmussen, 458).

The true first edition of Tom Sawyer is among the most difficult of the great 19th-century American novels to obtain in collector’s condition.