The Mark Twain Papers & Project - Exhibit - Mark Twain Takes on Art - The Amateur Engraver


The Amateur Engraver

Perhaps Mark Twain's earliest and most successful attempt to exploit his own art work to humorous effectGalaxy cover was the burlesque war map, "Fortifications of Paris," published in the Buffalo Express on 17 September 1870.Map of Paris He created the map during one of the "blackest, the gloomiest, the most wretched" periods of his life, when he saw his fragile young wife, pregnant with their first child, increasingly debilitated and exhausted as she dealt with the illness of a dear friend dying of typhoid in the Clemens house. Clemens's own mood alternated from "deep melancholy to half insane tempests and cyclones of humor." During one of those "spasms of humorous possession," he got a board and with a jackknife carved a "crude and absurd" map of Paris under siege, parodying the current newspaper coverage of the Franco-Prussian War. The map was printed in reverse, comical evidence of the amateur engraver's ineptness. Although its humor seems faint now, the map was wildly popular in 1870 and many times reprinted. It appeared as a fold-out in the Galaxy magazine in November 1870.

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