by Barbara Schmidt

A History of and Guide to

American Publishing Company's
Underwood Edition (1901)

(Updated March 2023)

Frank Livingston Underwood was a financial backer for Robert G. Newbegin. Newbegin arranged with American Publishing Company to issue a uniform edition of Mark Twain's works and the Underwood Edition carries the name of his backer. (For more information on Underwood's connection with Henry H. Rogers, see Chapter 5.) A letter written by George Gilman, representing American Publishing Company to John Larkin, a Harper attorney, dated 13 October 1903 describes the production of the Underwood Edition:

What was left in our hands of those numbered editions, were sold to Newbegin and Co., who afterwards became known as the Anglo American Company, and for them we also published, printed and manufactured the Underwood Edition of 2500 sets, the latter portion of which edition was bound up different from the first portion, and was labeled the Riverdale Edition (Gilman, 1903).

The Underwood Edition of 1901 was composed, in part, from leftover portions of previous editions produced in 1899 including the Edition De Luxe, Japan and Royal Editions. An examination of a complete set of the Underwood Edition reveals that paper with the unique Mark Twain watermark that was previously used in the 1899 Edition De Luxe and Japan Editions may be found scattered throughout various volumes of the Underwood Edition. Title pages showing only the American Publishing Company 1899 imprint are found in some volumes while other volumes of the same set carry the R. G. Newbegin 1901 imprint on the title pages.

Newbegin imprint
R. G. Newbegin imprint is found in many, but not all, volumes in the Underwood Edition.

The Underwood Edition, like some sets in the Royal Edition, utilized the printed facisimile statement "This is the authorized Uniform Edition of all my books. Mark Twain." The Underwood Edition also became the focal point of advertising wars between R. G. Newbegin and Harper and Brothers (discussed in Chapter 5).

The Underwood Edition flyleaf appears in each volume of the edition.

Authoroization Statement 1901
This notice appears in each volume of the Underwood Edition on the back of the flyleaf.

The Underwood Edition was the first major departure from the format of the earlier 1899 American Publishing Company Uniform Editions. It reduced the number of illustrations, photographic frontispieces, Tiffany title pages, and the price. Overall, however, it was still a handsome edition featuring dark blue cloth binding.

Underwood binding
The Underwood Edition features blue cloth binding and paper labels on the spine.

Given that the R. G. Newbegin Riverdale Edition was a numbered edition of 625 sets, the remainder of the sets provided by American Publishing Company to make up the Underwood Edition totals approximately 1875 sets.

Tiffany title page

The title page designed by Tiffany and Company and engraved by W. H. B. Bicknell appears in Volume 1 only of the Underwood, Riverdale and Hillcrest Editions. It features an SLC monogram surrounded by scenes from Mark Twain's life including a boat, stagecoach, train, and his home in Hartford, Connecticut. The lower left corner features a cabin depicting his humble birthplace at Florida, Missouri. The name of the edition is not specified on the Tiffany title page.

The original printing plate of this engraving is in the Kevin Mac Donnell collection.

A January 1902 ad in The Library Journal by a New York book dealer stated the original price for the Underwood Edition was $55 for 22 volumes.

Chicago Tribune ad for November 8, 1903 gives the original subscription price at $65.00.

What is evident from the advertising is that the Underwood Edition was being sold in department stores across the country, a practice likely frowned on by Harper and Brothers.


Summary of Features of Underwood Edition




Johnson, Merle. A Bibliography of the Works of Mark Twain. (Harper and Brothers, 1935).

Gilman, George H. to John Larkin, 13 October 1903, reel #50 Archives of Harper and Brothers, 1817 - 1914.

Leary, Lewis, ed. Mark Twain's Correspondence with Henry Huttleston Rogers 1893-1909. (University of California Press, 1969).

Rodney, Robert M. Mark Twain International. (Greenwood Press, 1982).


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