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by Barbara Schmidt

A History of and Guide to

Harper's Library Edition (1901)

Harper's Library Edition volumes feature dark maroon cloth bindings with a gold and green ornamental design on the spine, gilded top edges, and deckled or rough cut side and bottom edges. The books have no volume numbers and were first marketed in sets of six as "Mark Twain's Best Books."

Harper's Library Edition
Harper's Library Edition series introduced in 1901


This series includes the same 25 volumes included in the American Publishing Company's uniform editions. Works that had been divided into two volumes were issued as two volumes in the Harper's Library Edition series. Twenty-five volumes were available in this binding by 1907.

Cosmo ad 1901
Ad from Cosmopolitan, October 1901 featuring six titles, although a typographic error in the ad misnumbered them. Harper offered a monthly payment plan of $1 a month for eleven months, aiming to reach middle income book buyers who also wanted uniformity in their sets.

These six titles advertised as "Mark Twain's Best Books" were works that Harper and Brothers owned and had complete control over in 1901 even though they were also included in American Publishing Company's uniform editions. Sales strategies for Harper's Library Edition consisted of combining them with subscriptions to Harper's Weekly, Harper's Monthly, or George Harvey's own North American Review.

When Harper and Brothers acquired rights to the remainder of Mark Twain's works in 1903 they lost little time in advertising the new titles they acquired from American Publishing Company designating them as "Mark Twain's Funniest Books" although Puddn'head Wilson is arguably not a humorous work.

Funniest book ad 1903
This advertisement appeared in December 1903 in the following publications: Atlantic Monthly, Critic, Bookman, Dial, Literary World, Current Opinion and Scribners. It represented the takeover by Harper and Brothers of the American Publishing Company's rights to some of Mark Twain's most popular works and emphasized the affordability with which they were being offered. Books were offered on the installment plan of payment -- six books for $12.00 paid out over one year.

Two-volume edition of Roughing It from the "Funniest Books" set.
Twenty-five volumes were available in this binding by 1907. These were the same titles available in previous American Publishing Company uniform editions but contained fewer illustrations.

Summary of features of Harper's Library Edition




Archives of Harper and Brothers, 1817-1914 [58 microfilm reels]. (Cambridge, England: Chadwyck-Healey; Teaneck, NJ: Somerset House, 1980).

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

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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