This Day In Writing History
On February 13th, 1991, the famous auction house Sotheby's announced that the original draft of Mark Twain's classic novel, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885) had been discovered. Specifically, the first half of Twain's original draft manuscript, which had been thought lost.
The story of this major discovery began with a 62-year-old librarian from Los Angeles. Her aunt, who had lived in upstate New York, recently passed away. Six trunks full of her papers were sent to her niece. When the librarian finally got around to sorting through these papers, she made an incredible find.
Her grandfather, James Gluck, a lawyer and rare book collector, had acted as Twain's literary agent. Twain had sent Gluck the second half of his completed first draft of Huckleberry Finn to sell to the Buffalo and Erie Library in Buffalo, New York. He had once lived in Buffalo.
Twain had lost the first half of his manuscript, which is why Gluck only received the second half. For many years, it was believed that the first half had been lost forever. Then a librarian in Los Angeles sorted through trunks filled with her late aunt's papers.
There, in one of the trunks, she found the lost first half of Twain's original draft of Huckleberry Finn. Stunned, she asked Sotheby's to authenticate the manuscript. They had it shipped by armored car and plane to New York City, and found that it was indeed Mark Twain's lost original first half of Huckleberry Finn.
Since the manuscript contained the author's handwritten corrections and notes, there could be only one explanation for its existence: Twain had found the lost first half of his manuscript and sent it on to James Gluck in Buffalo. By then, he was already working on his second draft and gave no further thought to the original.
Finally put together as a complete whole, the original version of Huckleberry Finn is an amazing discovery. In addition to extended original scenes with more detail, it also included additional scenes that did not appear in the final version of the novel.
One of these additional scenes was a 15-page passage where, on a stormy night, Jim the runaway slave tells Huck Finn stories of his encounters with ghosts and corpses. Deemed too dark and macabre for a novel geared toward children, this scene had to be cut.
After a legal battle between Gluck's heirs, the Buffalo and Erie Library, and the University of Berkeley's Mark Twain Papers Projects over the rights to the manuscript, an amicable settlement was reached between all three parties.
The Buffalo and Erie Library retained the physical manuscript papers and all three parties would share equally in the royalties when the manuscript was published. Many publishing houses were chomping at the bit for the opportunity to publish it.
In 1995, Random House won the the bidding war for the right to publish the original version of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
Quote Of The Day
"Substitute damn every time you're inclined to write very; your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be." - Mark Twain
Today's video features a segment from the TV series 60 Minutes on a recent censorship controversy surrounding Mark Twain's classic novel, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.