The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (First Edition) by Mark Twain



2015-06-26 10:51:41

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is a novel by Mark Twain (1835-1910). The first edition of this work was published in 1876, firstly in Britain by Chatto and Windus, London, a pirated edition two months later of the Belford Brothers, Canada, and then finally the first American edition a few months after that by Hartford: American Publishing Company, New York. Background

Tom Sawyer was written based partly on Mark Twain’s own childhood in the town of Hannibal, Missouri. The writing of the novel began as a series of letters sent by Twain to an old friend about their schooldays, and the pranks and mischief they performed. The character of Tom Sawyer arose from a combination of boys Twain knew in his youth, as well as Twain himself. Sawyer’s friend Huckleberry Finn, on whom the sequel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn focuses, was based on a real child – the son of the town drunk in Hannibal during Twain’s childhood. Twain believed that it was not a boy’s book but to be read by adults, and it was only through persuasion that he allowed it to be marketed as a boy’s adventure.

The publication of the book was fraught with difficulties. Twain wanted the British edition out first to secure British copyright, so the American first edition was delayed. However, an unauthorised and unillustrated pirated edition came out in Canada before this was resolved, so by the time the American Publishing Company’s version came out, it was for many an old story, and Twain lost money.

Plot, Characters, Themes

The novel is a bildungsroman about the life of a boy growing up living on the Mississippi river. It follows his mishaps in school, in love, and his adventures with his friends.

The novel uses colloquial syntax and diction, capturing the vernacular dialect of the Mississippi banks. For many, this presents a certain realist truth, unseen prior to the publication of this novel.

Tom Sawyer is considered a great American novel.


Samuel Langhorne Clemens, better known as Mark Twain, was an American author and humorist.

See main article: Mark Twain rare books and memorabilia

Notable auction sales and collecting tips

The first edition of Tom Sawyer (1876, Chatto and Windus, London) is not seen as often as the American first edition (1876, Hartford: American Publishing Company, New York). Both are considered valuable.

Editions are worth much more in their original decorative cloth bindings. Therefore it is not recommended to restore or rebind first editions.

First American editions were sold by Christie’s for $18,750 in November 2011, and $66,000 in April 2005, and by Sothebys for $21,600 in June 2005 and $54,000 in June 2003.

First English editions were sold by PBA Galleries for $7,500 in November 2007, and by Christie’s for £7,638 in June 2003.

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