Illustrating Mark Twain's "Huckleberry Finn"

May 17, 2023

Illustrating Mark Twain's "Huckleberry Finn"

New to our Colorado shop are two Mark Twain classics- Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Prince and the Pauper. The books are beautiful and presented in their original gilt and black pictorial embossed cloth boards. Inside the covers, they are further decorated with countless illustrations by Edward W. Kemble. 

A young yet prodigious illustrator for magazines and newspapers like Harper's Bazaar and New York Graphic, Kemble’s cartoon work in Life caught the attention of Mark Twain. Mark Twain personally requested Kemble for Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, telling his publisher “That is the man I want to try” (David, 1974). The drawings Kemble produced for Huck Finn were his first book illustrations, and the ones he is still best known for. 

Mark Twain placed a lot of emphasis on the illustrations in his books, and thought they had a “major, influential effect on his readers.” Since the story was written in the first-person narrative, written descriptions of Huck Finn were limited to clothing descriptions and habits. Thus the illustrations of Huck Finn held the weight of establishing the character in the reader’s mind. Twain “decided [Huck Finn] would be illustrated after his own ideas” and spent “valuable time checking, editing, and approving each sketch.” There are approximately 175 illustrations in Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, for which Kemble was paid the large sum of $2,000.00. (David, 1974). 

Kemble’s illustrations were well received in their time. Artist Thomas Hart Benton stated that Kemble, “did a particularly good job with Huck’s adventures … No illustrator who has tackled the book since has in any way approached his delicate fantasy, his pat humor, or his ability to produce an atmosphere of pathos” (Anspaugh, 1993).  Due to the success of Huck Finn, Kemble was asked to illustrate other bestsellers, including Twain’s Puddin’ Head Wilson and The Prince and the Pauper, Washington Irving's Knickerbocker History of New York, and Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin.  Edward Kemble is appreciated today for his pioneering illustration style and was inducted into The Society of Illustrators’ Hall of Fame in 2007.  






Also in Blog

A Closer Look at Lincoln: Who Was Joseph C. Audenried?
A Closer Look at Lincoln: Who Was Joseph C. Audenried?

May 17, 2024

Taking a closer look at the history behind just one of our military commission documents, we discover the long and storied military career of Joseph C. Audenried. From surviving the Battle of Antietam to becoming the right hand man of General Sherman, Col. Audenried had quite the career after graduating from West Point during the beginnings of the Civil War.

View full article →

The Flying Tigers
The Flying Tigers

May 15, 2024

New to our Colorado shop is an early edition printing of The Flying Tigers. The Story of the American Volunteer Group by Russell Whelan, signed by seventeen members of the Flying Tigers. A force to be reckoned with, the AVG generated thirty-nine American aces during the short span of their combat history. An incredible piece of aviation and WWII memorabilia, this signed book discusses the creation of AVG, their missions and battles, and the pilots and crew who made history. 

View full article →

Creating the World of Narnia
Creating the World of Narnia

May 07, 2024

After countless requests, we finally got our hands on a first American edition of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. Read about how Lewis created the seven book series The Chronicles of Narnia.

View full article →

Back to the top