The following review appeared 17 September 2001 on the Mark Twain Forum.
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Beverly David's Mark Twain and His Illustrators: Volume II (1875-1883) has been a long time in the making. It follows Mark Twain and His Illustrators: Volume I (1869-1875), released in 1986, by fifteen years. It has been well worth the wait. David once again establishes herself as the premiere interpreter and critic of illustrations that appeared in Mark Twain's first editions.
The title of David's latest volume does not fully indicate the scope of her extensive research. It perhaps would better be described as "Mark Twain and his illustrators, publishers, and saga of his failed Kaolatype engraving process." Taking up where Volume I left off, David's book is divided into four chapters devoted to Sketches, New and Old, A Tramp Abroad, The Prince and the Pauper, and Life on the Mississippi.
David has gathered research from the Mark Twain Papers at Berkeley, Center for Mark Twain Studies at Elmira College, and her own treks through Germany and Switzerland. Drawing from letters to and from Clemens, publishers' contracts, and careful analysis of first edition publications--David immerses the reader in Clemens' creative processes. David demonstrates how decisions made in publishing subsequent books often hinged on the success or failure of the previous volumes. David's research paints a picture of Clemens as an author taking an intensive "hands on" approach to hiring illustrators; selecting illustrations; dabbling in production decisions; and frustrating his publishers.
In the first chapter devoted to Sketches, New and Old, David examines the small pamphlet of writings by American News Company titled Sketches #1 with illustrations by R. T. Sperry. The pamphlet preceded the more ambitious collection of Sketches, New and Old published by Elisha Bliss of American Publishing Company. David keenly hones in on the more subtle implications of True Williams' illustrations for the larger volume and how they affected Twain's growing public persona. Also discussed in this chapter is the rare book containing two sketches published by James Osgood titled A True Story and the Recent Carnival of Crime.
The second and longest chapter is devoted to A Tramp Abroad. David documents Clemens' alignment with Frank Bliss who was eager to break away from his father Elisha's company and take "Mark Twain" with him. The new publishing venture offered Clemens greater control in the production process of his books. David follows Clemens' "tramp" across Europe, explores his alliance with illustrator Walter Francis Brown in Paris, and unearths primary materials that were incorporated into illustrations. In addition, David provides entertaining insights into such topics as a red-headed dwarf named Clemens Perkeo whose picture is mysteriously missing in the illustration of the huge vat known as the Heidelberg Tun; Mark Twain's clever "kiss my ass" references that would be lost on American readers; and Twain's own double entendre artistic contributions. Unfortunately, several reproductions of paintings by "old masters" that Twain lampooned have not been reproduced clearly in this chapter making it difficult for the reader to appreciated the finer points that Twain cleverly chose to satirize with his own artistic contributions to the book.
The chapter devoted to The Prince and the Pauper documents Clemens' departure from American Publishing Company and his new alliance with publisher James Osgood--an alliance that Frank Bliss attempted to undermine. The works of illustrators John Harley, Frank Merrill and L. S. Ipsen are compared and contrasted, emphasizing Clemens' regard for historical accuracy throughout the book.
The final chapter is devoted to Life on the Mississippi and the illustrations by John Harley, Edmund Henry Garrett, and A. B. Shute. Clemens' final failure to convince his publishers to embrace his Kaolatype engraving process--one of his invention investments that eventually proved to be a money loser--occurred when illustrator Harley stood his ground and refused to have his name placed on any illustration reproduced via Kaolatype. Editor A. V. S. Anthony informed Clemens, "To sum up the whole thing the Kaolatype misses the original about the same as would the recital of the 'Jumping Frog' by a Baptist minister from memory--(p. 262)."
David's analysis and discussion of illustrations for Life on the Mississippi include the expurgated "Cremation Scene" as well as the corrected caption for the St. Charles/St. Louis Hotel. The discussion is a virtual road map for collectors trying to decipher different states of the first edition.
Mark Twain and His Illustrators: Volume II (1875-1883) is thoroughly footnoted and indexed. A reference list is also provided for each photo or illustration. The book is a fine companion piece to Mark Twain and His Illustrators: Volume I (1869-1875) which still remains in print.