We often hear from Mark Twain fans who are understandably excited to have
found an early edition with a signature and inscription that look
genuine. Alas, for many the excitement is short lived, because
when it comes to Twain's collected works, a signature is not always
what it seems. |
The confusion arises because there are several multi-volume sets of
Twain's works which contain a steel-engraved facsimile of a handwritten
statement and signature. The statement reads: "This is the authorized
Uniform Edition of all my books. Mark Twain." It appears in popular
series such as the American Publishing Company's Riverdale and Underwood
editions, and Harper & Brother Publishers' Hillcrest and Author's
The Charles L. Webster & Company's Mark Twain's Library of Humor
also has a stamped facsimile of Clemens's handwritten "Compiler's
Apology" that reads: "Those selections in this book which are from my
own works were made by my two assistant compilers, not by me. This is
why there are not more. Mark Twain." According to our correspondents,
this statement also appears in a six-volume series titled Masterpieces
of Humor and may be reprinted elsewhere.
Of course, there are many books individually autographed and inscribed
by Clemens, but if you see either wording indicated above, your book is
most likely from a facsimile-signature set.
There are also sets of Mark Twain's writings that contain real signatures.
These were not inscribed to specific friends and acquaintances, but
were signed by Clemens to enhance sets of collected works such as the
American Publishing Company's Royal and Autograph Editions. These are
numbered, registered presentation sets, and Clemens signed a page in
the first volume of each set. Knowing the date
of Clemens's death will eliminate some signature ambiguity, but not all.
The Writings of Mark Twain, Definitive Edition, was published by
Gabriel Wells in 1922, but the first volumes of these sets contain
inserted leaves signed by Clemens in 1906.
We cannot evaluate or estimate the value of our correspondents' books,
but if you are curious about the qualities and value of your books, we
recommend you contact a qualified antiquarian bookseller, preferably a
member of the Antiquarian Booksellers' Association of America, Inc.
You can write to them at 50 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10020, or
visit their website at
to find a member bookseller in your area.