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Mark Twain

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With the final volume of Mark Twain’s autobiography being published this year (after the wily author embargoed it for 100 years after his death), it’s a good time to explore West Virginia University’s Mark Twain collection in the Rare Book Room of the WVU Libraries. See more online:

Jane Labarbara


Staff Librarian

Memory Game Builder

“Mark Twain invented a pre-glued scrapbook. Apparently, this scrapbook was one of his most successful inventions, earning him more than $50,000 and probably saving countless old books (the scrapbook of the time) from being defaced.

Mark Twain’s Memory Builder’ was an invention designed to aid the memorization of dates and facts in a fun way, but it wasn’t very popular with the buying public.”

Kevin Fredette

Associate University Librarian

"Following the Equator: A Journey Around the World"

“As a young girl, West Virginian Ruth Woods wrote a postcard to her favorite author, Mark Twain, and he replied. After she married WVU alumnus Arthur S. Dayton, the couple began collecting Mark Twain first editions, which the couple later donated, along with the postcard.”

Lori Hostuttler


"Adventures of Huckleberry Finn"
"Life on the Mississippi"

“The first English edition of ‘Life on the Mississippi’ is interesting because of the font used for the lettering and the illustration in black on the spine. The Asian-style lettering was an unusual way to present this memoir of Twain’s youth as a steamboat pilot on the Mississippi River.”

Stewart Plein

Rare Book Librarian

Salesman Sample
"Joan of Arc"

“Mark Twain didn’t sell his books in a bookstore; he sold them by subscription. Book peddlers traveled the country with abbreviated ‘sample’ books to show customers a portion of text, a few illustrations and even samples of the book bindings to choose from. This book is open at the order form filled with selections, names, addresses, type ordered and the price.”

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