Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, First American Edition, 1885

Twain, Mark. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Tom Sawyer’s Comrade). New York: Charles L. Webster and Company, 1885. First American Edition, Early State. Octavo, original gilt and black-stamped green pictorial cloth. With illustrations by Edward Kemble. Presented with a new matching archival clamshell case. 

This is a green cloth first American edition copy of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. The book is complete with 174 illustrations by Edward Kemble, as well as a lithographic frontispiece, and photographic portrait frontispiece of the bust of Mark Twain by Karl Gerhardt. 

Twain initially conceived the work as a sequel to The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, intending to follow the character Huckleberry Finn through adulthood. Beginning with a few pages he had removed from the earlier novel, Twain began work on a manuscript he originally titled Huckleberry Finn's Autobiography. Twain worked on the manuscript off and on for the next several years, ultimately abandoning his original plan of following Huck's development into adulthood.

He lost interest in the manuscript and set it aside for several years. In the meantime, he finished and published three other books: A Tramp Abroad (1880), The Prince and the Pauper (1881), and Life on the Mississippi (1883). It may have been his trip down the Mississippi River in preparation for the writing of the latter that inspired him to complete Huckleberry Finn in 1883. Upon completion, the novel's title closely paralleled its predecessor's: Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Tom Sawyer's Comrade)

It was first published in England and Canada on December 12, 1884. Publication in the United States was delayed until February 18, 1885 due to a printer’s alteration of an illustration plate. Thirty thousand copies had already been printed, and a new plate had to be created to repair these copies and for all subsequent ones. Twain allowed the book to be excerpted in three installments in The Century Magazine between December, 1884, and February, 1885, even assisting with the editing for the excerpts. The first American edition was published by subscription through Twain’s own publishing house, Charles L. Webster and Company, which was run by his nephew, Charles Webster. The original publication in book form included 175 original illustrations by Edward W. Kemble. 

From the moment of publication, Huckleberry Finn endured critical attacks, standing accused of “blood-curdling humor,” immorality, coarseness and profanity. The book nevertheless emerged as one of the defining novels of American literature, prompting Ernest Hemingway to declare: “All modern literature comes from one book by Mark Twain. It’s the best book we’ve had. All American writing comes from that. There was nothing before. There has been nothing since.” Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has been called “the most praised and most condemned 19th-century American work of fiction” (Legacies of Genius, 47). 


The book is in good condition. Green cloth boards with gilt and black pictorial embossed front and spine. Book has been rebacked in green cloth and edges have been repaired by a conservator in 2023. Paper is healthy, with only small points of foxing throughout and light toning. Illustrations in good condition and all accounted for. 

This is a first edition, mixed state printing, issued in the first year of publication. Points include: frontispiece with no cloth showing at base of Twain's bust, most of the various typos and errors corrected, although no gathering signature on p. 161, usually described as an early feature. 

The book is presented with a new archival 1/4 leather and cloth clamshell case. The clamshell has raised bands, gilt titles and tooling to the spine, an inlaid portrait of Twain on the front, and Twain’s facsimile signature embossed on both the front and inside of the case. Book Dimensions: 8 3/4" H x 7" W x 1 3/8" D. Clamshell Dimensions: 10" H x 8" W x 2" D.