1883 Life on the Mississippi by Mark Twain. Bound by Whitman Bennett. Osgood, Boston. First edition, mixed-state.


A handsome first edition of Mark Twain's Life on the Mississippi, bound and signed by Whitman Bennett. The original cloth boards are bound-in at the rear, which always protects them well and keeps them as bright examples of the original.

“Twain once remarked that he considered this book his masterpiece, the book that would outlive his other works and endure as a classic. Of course, Twain once defined a classic as a book everybody talks about but nobody ever reads, and by that standard, this volume is in no danger of going the way of Paradise Lost, War and Peace, or Remembrance of Things Past. At first glance it seems to be a travel book, but it is really a highly readable discursive autobiographical account of Twain's boyhood, his region, and of a culture that had radically changed since he left home thirty years earlier. It makes good reading as background for Huck Finn, and it is such a vivid evocation of the period and people it describes, it may yet endure as a classic.” – Collecting Mark Twain, Kevin MacDonnell, Firsts Magazine Inc, posted at the ABAA website

BAAL - 3411

Mixed-state. During the printing run of the first edition, several changes were made. This copy has the earlier Twain head-in-flames on 441, but the later St. Charles Hotel on 443.

The binder, Whitman Bennett, was an interesting American himself. Before bookbinding, he was a silent-film producer and director, including six films starring Lionel Barrymore. His authored books include A Practical Guide to American Book Collecting.

Physical Attributes -

Measures approx. 22 x 14 x 4 cm.. 3/4 calf binding with cloth covered boards; spine and corners in calf with single gilt fillet along edges. Spine with five raised bands, pointelle roll in gilt over them; four compartments of spine have leaves and dot gilt decorations framed in double gilt fillet borders, two compartments have title and author in gilt, year in gilt at base of spine. All edges gilt (AEG). Decorative paper endpapers, simulating marbling... but I don't think it is marbling. Cloth covers pasted in at rear blank unpaginated endpapers.

Pages - Flyleaf, (1 binder's blank), (1), frontis starts pagination of 1/2 - 624, four binder's blanks at rear - two with old cloth covers pasted onto them, flyleaf.

Condition -

See pictures. A few rubs around edges and corner wear (small). One 2 cm. rub on back board. Slightly out of square, likely due to original cloth binding being bound-in at rear. Binder stamp on verso of flyleaf.

Bookseller notes on 1st blank unpaginated leaf. Both frontis and title page have 1" tears at gutter margins at top and bottom. Frontis and title have a little toning and the hints, and title page has thumbing at fore-edge. Paper has a little toning throughout. Very occasional rust spot. Repaired 1" fore-edge margin tear at 192. A little chipping along fore-edge of last printed page.

Mostly, quite clean and handsome.

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