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Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
Sun, 10 Mar 1996 13:12:13 -0500
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David Hart wrote:
> I am trying to find out which published edition is considered the "standard
> edition" of _Huckleberry Finn_ and WHY. I would appreciate any information
> or suggestions you could give. Thanks.
>         I understand the California editions are generally regarded as
> standard critical Twain texts, but WHY?

"Despite his protests, all of Mark Twain's books appeared with literally
thousands of undetected errors in form and content.  Later reprintings
only compounded the problem, and none but the original publisher could
afford to include the illustrations that Mark Twain always commissioned
for his books . . .  The aim of the _Works of Mark Twain_ is to restore
his published writings as nearly as possible to their pristine
state--freed from 'uninvited emendations' . . . Editorial work on texts
and annotations is carried out by members of the Mark Twain Project . . .
in Berkeley. . . . Each is an 'Approved Edition,' endorsed either by the
Center for Editions of American Authors or its successor, the Committee
for Scholarly Editions, of the Modern Language Association." (_Adventures
of Huckleberry Finn, U. of Cal. P, 1988 back cover)

An excerpt from the MLA's December annoucement of California's _Roughing
It_ receiving the inaugural MLA Prize for a Distinguished Scholarly
Edition shows the quality many of us expect from California: "Combining
superb commentary, detailed composition history, and lucid editorial
explanation with the presentation of difficult textual problems, the
volume addresses both the intricacies of textual editing and major content
issues . . ."

For me, California has the standard _H.F._edition of the moment.  I
consider the raftsmen' passage essential.  Others may disagree. The
Graff/Phelan _Huck Finn_ which has been reviewed and commented on in the
Forum "contains the 1885 text . . . the one most commonly read and taught
. . . [and does] not include the raftsmen's passage, which was not part of
the 1885 text and is not directly relevant to any of [their] three
controversies" (v).

Incidentally, the California _H. F._ paperback is printed on acid-free
paper which will last forever, but is held together by a binding which
does not withstand the abuse I give paperbacks.

I hope the upcoming Forum review of _Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: The
Only Comprehensive Edition_ will explain which text the recently
discovered manuscript was collated with, and I expect many of us will
rethink our viewpoints on the standard edition once Random House releases
the book.

Regardless, like the buyers of 19th century subscription books, I like the
feel of a thick, heavy volume.---larry marshburne [log in to unmask]