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Sat, 12 Oct 2013 22:16:38 -0700
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Reading your message was an education.  Thank you for taking the time to
produce such a thorough coverage.

Arianne Laidlaw

On Fri, Oct 11, 2013 at 6:47 PM, R. Kent Rasmussen <
[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> BlankToday's mail brought an elaborate promotion for a 15-volume =
> collection of facsimile reprints of Mark Twain books produced by the =
> Bradford Press of Morton Grove, Illinois. As many members of the Forum =
> are probably receiving the same package, it may not be inappropriate to =
> make some observations here about this offer. I don't wish to recommend =
> whether anyone should or should not buy these books, but I do recommend =
> a close study of the offer before making a decision.
> The glossy Bradford packet recalls Publisher's Clearinghouse sweepstakes =
> promotions from years ago. It contains seven separate pieces presenting =
> redundant information and instructions, even including stickers to affix =
> to the reply form. Like the old sweepstakes packets, it's a confusing =
> array.
> I've not seen any of the facsimile books the company produces, but if =
> they are as faithful to the original editions as the promotion claims, I =
> expect they're fully worth their $49.99-per-volume asking price. The =
> heart of the promotion is an offer of _The Celebrated Jump Frog_ =
> facsimile volume for $19.99. Also offered is attractive =
> "bronze-finished" (whatever that means) bookends to purchasers of the =
> set's fifth volume, _A Tramp Abroad_. That offer takes some effort to =
> understand. The books are sent out on a free-trial basis, presumably in =
> numerical order. To receive the free bookends, one apparently must =
> examine the first five volumes and buy at least the fifth volume. I see =
> no clear explanation of whether one must pay shipping charges, or what =
> the shipping charges may be, for return volumes, so there is a hidden =
> cost to consider.
> Incidentally, the publisher's claim that its books are the "first" =
> authentic reproductions of Mark Twain's first editions isn't quite true. =
> Full facsimile reproductions of _Tom Sawyer_ and _Huckleberry Finn_ have =
> been available for many years. Granted those books represent only two of =
> Mark Twain's titles, but this new set itself is anything but =
> comprehensive. Its 15 titles have no clear unity. In once place, the set =
> is described as "the first-ever replicas of Mark Twain's works as he =
> himself envisioned them. ... These authentic replica editions ... appear =
> precisely according to Twain's original intent in every detail." That's =
> a curious assertion. The publisher seems completely unaware of the work =
> of the Mark Twain Project, which for many years has been restoring the =
> texts of Mark Twain's books as he intended them. To imply that =
> facsimiles of first editions satisfy his original intent simply isn't =
> true. An outrageous contradiction in the set is its inclusion of the =
> 1916 edition of _The Mysterious Stranger_, which Albert Bigelow Paine =
> and Frederick Duneka rewrote, drawing on two separate Mark Twain =
> manuscripts. How that bogus edition can be described as meeting Mark =
> Twain's "original intent" is mysterious indeed. The only explanation for =
> its inclusion in this set must be its beautiful illustrations by N. C. =
> Wyeth (whom one flyer describes as "the 19th century's most respected =
> American illustrator"--an extravagant claim for a man who began =
> illustrating books in the 20th century).
> Yet another flyer calls the books "authentic reproductions of Mark =
> Twain's original first editions." What exactly does that mean? The set =
> includes 13 American editions and 2 British editions. The two British =
> titles are _Tom Sawyer Abroad_ and _Tom Sawyer, Detective_. The latter =
> story was not issued as a stand-alone title in an early American =
> edition, so an argument can be made that the British edition is an =
> "original first edition." There was, however, an American edition of =
> _Tom Sawyer Abroad_. Why isn't it used instead of the British edition? =
> Because the Chatto & Windus edition came out four days before its =
> handsomer American counterpart, I suppose it could be regarded as the =
> "original first edition," but so what? Chatto editions of _Tom Sawyer_ =
> and _Huckleberry Finn_ came out before the American editions, too, but =
> those aren't the editions replicated in this collection.
> The overall selection of titles is curious, too. It includes _Innocents =
> Abroad_, _A Tramp Abroad_, and _Life on the Mississippi_ but not =
> _Roughing It_ or _Following the Equator._ With the emphasis the =
> publisher places on attractive illustrations, surely the lavishly =
> illustrated _Following the Equator_, with its beautiful decorative =
> cover, merits inclusion. Another heavily illustrated first edition =
> missing from the set is _Sketches New & Old_. Why is it excluded while =
> lightly illustrated titles such as _The American Claimant_, _Tom Sawyer =
> Abroad_, and _Tom Sawyer Detective_ are included?
> I'll reiterate that these books may truly be worth their asking prices, =
> and it's possible I'll buy some myself. I am, however, a little =
> skeptical of the publisher's claims about the books being authentic in =
> every detail. I've already cited some of the publisher's misleading =
> statements, including the howler about Wyeth. Other errors can be found =
> in the flyers (e.g., Edward W. Kemble's initials are not "W. W."; _The =
> Prince and the Pauper_ is not about Edward III; W. W. Denslow did not =
> contribute illustrations to _The Innocents Abroad_). Moreover, the =
> suggestion that building a collection of original editions could cost =
> "upwards of $169,000" is ludicrous. I've purchased early editions =
> (including many firsts) of all but two of the editions in this facsimile =
> collection and paid less than one-one hundredth of that figure for them. =
> Yes, pristine first editions would have cost me a lot more, but not 100 =
> times more.
> At the recent Elmira conference, a participant gave a presentation about =
> this facsimile edition that was received with some embarrassment and =
> dismay. Apart from being a blatantly commercial presentation that seemed =
> inappropriate at the conference, the presentation revealed a shocking =
> ignorance of the work of the Mark Twain Project and completely =
> overlooked the existence of the Oxford Mark Twain edition, edited by =
> Shelley Fisher Fishkin. Unlike the Bradford edition, the Oxford edition =
> has a true unity--its 29 volumes (including several composite volumes) =
> represent the first American editions of all Mark Twain books published =
> during his lifetime. The Oxford volumes are not reproductions of the =
> original books' designs and bindings, but they do contain facsimile =
> reproductions of their original pages. They include all the titles in =
> the Bradford set except _The Mysterious Stranger_, which has no business =
> being part of any Mark Twain collection, and at least 17 additional =
> titles. If you already have the Oxford set, all the Bradford set will =
> add to your collection is _The Mysterious Stranger_ and a lot of =
> beautifully reproduced bindings.
> One final mystery: At the Elmira conference, the representative for the =
> Bradford set suggested that the world is clamoring for authentic =
> reproductions of books such as _The Gilded Age_. Is that true? I wonder. =
> I can't imagine many libraries that already own original editions or the =
> sturdy Oxford set rushing to buy these facsimiles. Bradford says its set =
> is "strictly limited to just 4,999 complete sets worldwide." If that =
> means they are actually printing that many books, I think we can be =
> confident that most of them will be remaindered at bargain prices. =
> However, I suspect they'll start with a much smaller number of books.

Arianne Laidlaw A '58