Three weeks ago, I published a post about my The Works of Charles Dickens– Cleartype Edition (1868) set. In it, I explained how I found a huge stack of antique books at a garage sale months prior for ten bucks. That pile of antique books also included this 24-volume Works of Mark Twain– American Artists Edition collection.
This edition contains a peculiar history. The Harper and Brothers “little green” Authorized Edition and the American Artists Edition are bibliographic puzzles for book buyers and collectors. Some Harper printing codes indicate that printing plates used for the editions were plates that had been used in earlier more expensive sets. Other printing codes as late as 1935 are found in some volumes.
No evidence has been found that the editions were ever marketed directly by Harper and Brothers and no evidence has been found to indicate the sets were marketed prior to 1937. Following the history of the editions through available advertising and the memoirs of the people involved indicates the primary purpose of the sets was an enticement to increase newspaper circulation. This was accomplished by luring readers to buy daily newspapers featuring clippable coupons that could be redeemed, along with a few cents, for books until a complete set was obtained.
The Post’s expiration notice indicates readers were charged 93¢ for each 4 volumes of the 24-volume Uniform Edition of Mark Twain’s works (about 23¢ per volume) plus 24 newspaper coupons or certificates. The American Artists volumes were sold at 4 for $1.66 (about 41¢ per volume) until a complete set of 24 volumes was obtained. According to the advertising, Harper and Brothers had manufactured 100,000 sets of the books.
As you can see, the pages look incredible. There are tons of pictures in every volume of Twain or of scenes from his work. Considering the age, this set is in impeccable condition.
This set includes:
Volume 1: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
Volume 2: The Innocents Abroad
Volume 3: Pudd’nhead Wilson
Volume 4: The American Claimant
Volume 5: A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court
Volume 6: Roughing It
Volume 7: Life on the Mississippi
Volume 8: The Mysterious Stranger
Volume 9: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Volume 10: The Gilded Age
Volume 11: A Tramp Abroad
Volume 12: What is Man?
Volume 13: Following the Equator
Volume 14: Tom Sawyer Abroad
Volume 15: The Man that Corrupted Hadleyburg
Volume 16: In Defense of Harriet Shelley
Volume 17: Joan of Arc
Volume 18: The $30,000 Bequest
Volume 19: Sketches New and Old
Volume 20: Europe and Elsewhere
Volume 21: The Prince and the Pauper
Volume 22: Mark Twain’s Notebook
Volume 23: Christian Science
Volume 24: Mark Twain’s Speeches
For more information on the great novelist, check out Autobiography of Mark Twain.