by Barbara Schmidt

A History of and Guide to

"Tom Sawyer is simply a hymn put into prose form to give it a worldly air."
- Samuel Clemens unmailed letter to W. R. Ward, 8 September 1887

Chapter 15
Brief Overview of Volume 12:
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

First Publications

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, a tale of the trials and tribulations of a boy in rural Missouri, was the first novel Samuel Clemens wrote following his collaboration with Charles Dudley Warner on The Gilded Age. He completed the manuscript in November 1875. The novel comprised 71,500 words in 35 chapters and an epilogue. Elisha Bliss of American Publishing Company commissioned True W. Williams to illustrate the text. Williams provided at least 161 drawings for the book. However, it would be over a year before the book was released in the United States on December 8, 1876. In the meantime British publisher Chatto and Windus issued an unillustrated edition in June 1876. A month later Belford Brothers, a Canadian publishing house, pirated the book sending approximately 100,000 cheap copies across the border into the United States. In Europe, German editions of the book were issued in October. The book was destined to become one of Mark Twain's most popular. In 1892 American Publishing Company issued a new low-cost edition to take advantage of the holiday trade.

Refining the Work

When Frank Bliss of American Publishing Company issued The Adventures of Tom Sawyer in the 1899 uniform edition, Clemens had an opportunity to revise and refine his work. Production of the new 1899 plates also had the potential to introduce inconsistencies into the texts that were the result of typesetting errors.

Frank Bliss intended to correct any errors for subsequent printings and hired Forrest Morgan (b. 1852 - d. 1924), a fastidious proofreader, to weed out errors. Morgan, a former editor of the Hartford Travelers Record and later an assistant librarian at Watkinson Library in Hartford, read from a set of the Royal Edition to mark errors.

Clemens was familiar with the work of Forrest Morgan in Travelers Record. When Clemens wrote "Stirring Times in Austria" in 1897 he quoted from a long passage he credited to Morgan to describe the history of disunity in the Austro-Hungarian empire. "Stirring Times in Austria" was published in Harper's Monthly in March 1898 and is reprinted in Volume 22.

Morgan's 22-volume set of the Royal Edition with his annotations is in the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University, a gift from William Lyon Phelps in 1922.

Forrest Morgan
Forrest Morgan, proofreader for the 1899 uniform edition, helped refine the works for subsequent editions.

The most extensive examination and comparison of the texts was conducted for the Works of Mark Twain series published by the Iowa Center for Textual Studies in 1980 edited by John C. Gerber, Paul Baender, and Terry Firkins. The editors concluded that no authorial changes had been made to the text for the 1899 edition.

W. H. W. Bicknell's Contributions

Bicknell portrait
William Harry Warren Bicknell
photo courtesy of the Winchester, Massachusetts Archival Center

Frank Bliss hired new illustrators for the 1899 uniform edition. Artist and etcher William Harry Warren Bicknell (b. 1860 - d. 1947) was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of a grocer. Bicknell graduated from the Boston Latin School in 1878 and later studied at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. He was a pupil of Otto Grundmann and Frederic Crowningshield. Bicknell etched a number of frontispieces made from photographs of Clemens that were used throughout the set. Bicknell's etching of the Tiffany monogram appears as a title page in every volume of the Autograph Edition, Edition De Luxe, Japan Edition, Author's De Luxe Edition, and the Royal Edition. All of these editions began issuing in 1899.

Less expensive editions such as Underwood, Riverdale, and Hillcrest feature the Tiffany title page in Volume 1 only. It was eliminated altogether from the Author's National Edition.

Frontispiece Volume XII
Frontispiece of Volume 12 etched by William Harry Warren Bicknell based on a photograph from 1874.

John George Brown, Illustrator

Frank Bliss hired John George Brown (b. 1831 - d. 1913) to illustrate The Adventures of Tom Sawyer for the 1899 uniform edition. Brown's favorite subjects were the poor classes of street children of New York including the newspaper boys and bootblacks. He earned the reputation "Boot-black Raphael" and his style was well-suited to bringing to life the character of Tom Sawyer through sympathetic eyes.

Brown was born in Durham, England and attended schools at Newcastle-on-Tyne. He served an apprenticeship as a glass-cutter and later attended the School of Design at Newcastle. Brown later studied art at the Royal Academy in Edinburgh. In 1853 he immigrated to the United States and obtained work in the William Ownes glass factory in Brooklyn and opened an art studio in that city. In 1869 he was elected President of the National Academy of Design where he also taught. Brown achieved artistic success in spite of a childhood accident which resulted in a severely injured right hand.

John George Brown
John George Brown

Brown contributed four full-page illustrations to the 1899 edition of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Brown's "Tom Gave Up the Brush" was hand-colored and used at the frontispiece for the 1901 Riverdale Edition.

Tom Gave Up the Brush
Brown's "Tom Gave Up the Brush" is dated 1898 indicating that Brown received his illustration assignment earlier than a number of other artists. The illustration was hand-colored and used at the frontispiece for the 1901 Riverdale Edition.

Aunt Polly
Brown's version of Aunt Polly titled "I Could Forgive Him a Million Sins"

Brown's illustration of Aunt Polly dated 1899 was dropped from most subsequent editions of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer after 1899. It reappeared again in Harper's 1923 Mississippi Edition of Mark Twain's works but has since remained one of the lesser known of Brown's works.

Illustration List for Volume 12

The following are the original full-page illustrations that first appeared in the 1899 Autograph Edition, Edition De Luxe, Japan Edition, Author's De Luxe Edition, and the Royal Edition issued by American Publishing Company. As other editions were developed and prices were lowered, some of these illustrations were eliminated.




"J. G. Brown, Painter of Street Boys, Dies," The New York Times, 9 February 1913, p. 17.

Mark Twain Project online database of letters from the Mark Twain Papers/Project at the University of California at Berkeley.

Rasmussen, R. Kent. Critical Companion to Mark Twain, Volumes I and II. (Facts on File, 2007).

Twain, Mark. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Edition De Luxe. (American Publishing Company, 1899).

_____. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer; Tom Sawyer Abroad; Tom Sawyer, Detective. The Works of Mark Twain. John C. Gerber, Paul Baender, and Terry Firkins, eds. Iowa Center for Textual Studies. (University of California Press, 1980).


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