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The deluxe Tom Sawyer, one of 200 copies

TWAIN, MARK. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

Hartford: American Publishing, 1876

Original half brown morocco, gilt edges. Inner hinges neatly repaired, very light stain to a few leaves. An excellent copy. Half morocco case.

FIRST AMERICAN EDITION, FIRST PRINTING (with half-title and frontispiece on different leaves as required). This is one of only 200 copies in the original publisher’s deluxe morocco binding, sold at a premium by subscription.

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).

Tom Sawyer is among the most difficult of the great 19th-century American novels to obtain in fine condition, and the first printing of Tom Sawyer in the publisher’s half morocco binding is rare. This is an outstanding opportunity to own a premium copy of a literary classic.

Provenance: the celebrated library of Paul Francis Webster, bookplate, Sotheby’s New York, 24 April 1985, lot 15.

Grolier 100 American Books 79. BAL 3369.