“The only thing comparable to it I can think of would be an original Shakespeare manuscript,” Paul Needham, head of Sotheby’s books and manuscripts department, told the Times.
Mr. Needham said the voluminous corrections and changes — many of them lengthy — throughout the manuscript were clues to Twain’s creative process. “What you see is his attempt to move away from pure literary writing to dialect writing,” he said.
Changing the First Sentence
The manuscript shows that Twain changed the opening lines of “Huckleberry Finn” three times. Twain first wrote, “You will not know about me,” which he then changed to, “You do not know about me,” before arriving at the final version: “You don’t know about me without you have read a book by the name of ‘The Adventures of Tom Sawyer’; but that ain’t no matter.”
The manuscript was discovered in a trunk in a Los Angeles attic. The trunk belonged to James Fraser Gluck, a Buffalo lawyer and book collector who was a friend of Twain. The manuscript may have been located at a Buffalo library.
William H. Loos, curator of books at the Buffalo library, said yesterday that the discovery might be described as nothing more or less than the resurfacing “of an overdue book.” He said he suspects Mr. Gluck, a major benefactor of the library who was instrumental in persuading Twain to donate the Huck Finn manuscript, borrowed half of the manuscript and forgot to return it.
“Mr. Gluck must have taken that part of the manuscript home with him, presumably to read, and possibly forgot he had it,” said Mr. Loos. “He died very unexpectedly and tragically at the age of 45 in 1897, 10 years after the manuscript had been presented to the library. Because there was no title page on it, just a pile of handwritten documents, it was probably simply swept up when his estate was settled, put in these trunks and nobody has looked at them all these years. We greatly honor the memory of James Fraser Gluck, the single most generous benefactor of this library. If he forgot to return this overdue book, we are prepared to forgive him.”
It’s a handwritten manuscript. Twain was one of the first authors to work on a typewriter, but apparently not at the time he was writing Huck Finn.
(Via Will Shetterly – thanks!)