Category Archives: Mark Twain

Huckleberry Finn on Stage & Screen

Among the supplemental materials that enhance the Rare Book Room’s Mark Twain-Huckleberry Finn collection are posters, lobby cards and press kits from some of the film and stage versions of this famous American novel.  Now on display in the Mark Twain Room are items of motion picture memorabilia from the films of 1931, 1960, 1974 and 1993, including copies of screenplays, pressbooks and lobby cards.  Also on display is the print edition of the Tony award-winning musical production, Big River, from 1985, with soundtrack recordings and the musical score.

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Actors such as Tony Randall, Jackie Koogan, Elijah Wood, Courtney B. Vance and John Goodman have all played various parts in the Huck Finn adaptations.  A personal favorite, Harvey Korman and David Wayne as the King and the Duke in the 1974 Reader’s Digest/Arthur P. Jacobs production.

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Filed under Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Collections, Mark Twain, Rare Book Exhibits

Did you catch us on C-SPAN?

CSPAN logomark-twain-mss

Buffalo was featured on
C-SPAN’s 2015 Cities Tour. Along with other historical and literary spots narrated by local historians and cultural representatives our Mark Twain Room and select Rare Book Collection items were presented. The program aired October 17th and 18th but you can still view our segments at the addresses below as we show the C-SPAN viewers our wonderful wares for their knowledge and appreciation.


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David Gray’s Travel Journal

Gray’s Travel Diary, 1866-1868

A recent acquisition in the Grosvenor Rare Book Room is the manuscript travel diary of David Gray (1836-1888), an editor of the Buffalo Courier and friend of Mark Twain.  Born in Edinburgh, Scotland in November 1836, Gray’s family would emigrate to the United States thirteen years later and settle on a farm in Wisconsin.  Gray would move to Buffalo in 1856 when offered a job by his uncle William to serve as secretary and librarian to the Young Men’s Christian Union, and by 1859 would become associate editor of the Courier, the rival of Twain’s newspaper, the Buffalo Express.  In 1865, Gray was offered a temporary position as guardian and tutor of the 19-year-old son of William G. Fargo, President of the American Express Company in Buffalo.  As part of his duties, Gray would accompany the lad on a trip around the world, beginning with Liverpool in June of 1865. As a journalist he would publish 58 of his travel letters in the Courier until April of 1868, but he was also a noted poet.

Page from Gray's Travel Diary

This unassuming little book contains two years of Gray’s descriptions and observations while traveling abroad, and most would be published in a two-volume posthumous collection in 1888 that would include his poems and prose writings.  While in need of some tender loving care and conservation, this journal has found an appreciative home among the other local and international treasures of the Rare Book Room.

George Alfred Townsend, Mark Twain and David Gray, 1871


Footnote:  Gray’s journal has been returned from our bookbinder, and after carefully subtle repair is ready for cataloging.

After Conservation


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Should the New South Huckleberry Finn be allowed to supplant the Old South Huckleberry Finn?

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The Buffalo & Erie County Public Library is home to the original manuscript Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, one of the most lauded, yet most banned and censored, American novels. It has been treated thus from the time it first rolled off the press in late 1884 (London edition). The issue most often cited seems to be the use of the word “nigger” in the characters’ vernacular. Although the narrative voice does not use this term, the characters frequently do in their dialog. Often this over shadows the fact that the overriding theme is optimistic and moral because Huck’s conscience wins against the rules that society taught him when he protects his friend Jim. However, it seems that too many have just not been able to see past the “n” word.

So a retired English professor recently decided to replace “nigger” with “slave” and publish the “New South” edition of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn because he was always uncomfortable reading aloud the “N” word when he taught the text and he saw this as a way to make the book more acceptable for younger readers. Yet Twain never intended the book for younger readers and he made it clear in a letter to a Brooklyn Library librarian:

“I wrote Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn for adults exclusively, and it always distresses me when I find that boys and girls have been allowed access to them…Most honestly do I wish I could say a softening word or two in defense of Huck’s character since you wish it, but really in my opinion, it is no better than those of Solomon, David, and the rest of the sacred brotherhood.”

Given his own words about Huck Finn, how can one justify changing the intentional language of the text? By the way, if you have any doubt that his words were carefully chosen, come to the Mark Twain Room at the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library ( and see for yourself. The leaves of manuscript on display and show many times where he has crossed out and replaced words and phrases one, two and three times! There is no reason to dispute the author’s linguistic intention or to alter it.

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Now on exhibit in the Mark Twain Room

In the early 1930s, the Buffalo Public Library (a predecessor of the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library,) began to build a unique collection of special English and foreign language editions of the novel. Through the years, this collection has continued to grow. These remarkable items, currently numbering more than five hundred, fill the bookcases lining the walls of the Mark Twain Room at the Central Library.

Now featured in a new exhibition is a wide selection of Twain’s works acquired by the library during the past 80 years.  The newest addition, and the centerpiece of this exhibit, is the 2008 Pie Tree Press The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, illustrated by renowned Canadian book artist Jim Rimmer.  Also on display are several fine press publications of Twain’s writings, including multiple printings of his short and controversial Elizabethan skit, 1601.

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The Contemporary Twain

Four years before he died, Mark Twain dictated his autobiography to a stenographer.  In his will, Twain declared that the work should not be published for 100 years after his death [he died in 1910].  Although versions of this work have been previously published, they had been heavily edited, rearranging the work to read in a chronological fashion, and up to half of his original work.  This November, the University of California Press will publish the first of 3 volumes of Twain’s autobiography as it appeared in the original manuscript, providing new insight into Twain’s view of his contemporary world.

Read more about the autobiography from the NY Times

Read excerpts from the autobiography from the PBS Newshour

View an interview with the editors of the autobiography from PBS Newshour

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Twain poster is here!

In celebration of the 125th anniversary of the publication of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, the Rare Book Room commissioned a screen print from local graphic design firm, Hero!  125 Years of Huck posterOn sale at Novel Ideas in the Central Library, or through Hero’s website, the poster is a limited edition printing.  Novel Ideas store hours are: Mon,Tues, Wed & Fri 11AM-2PM; Thurs 11AM-6PM; Sat 11AM-3 PM.

Be sure to visit the Mark Twain Room at the Central Library for the new exhibit, 125 Years of Huck.  The exhibit showcases never-before-seen leaves of Mark Twain’s handwritten Huck Finn manuscript.  The Mark Twain Room is located on the first floor of the Central Library at the top of the escalators. Exhibits are open during regular library hours.

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