Some Texts & Contexts


  This site is built around six of MT's full-length works, but is also contains dozens of additional works by Mark Twain, and scores of texts by other writers in his times. Many of the texts include, or allow you to access, their original illustrations. Pudd'nhead Wilson is available in two different forms: an SGML-coded electronic text, and a graphic facsimile of the first edition, with the unusual "marginal illustrations" displayed at left. Clicking on this sample page will take you to the table of contents page for the entire facsimile text. (If you're looking for a specific text, you can use the ELECTRONIC INDEX.)


  MT's books were not written or designed to be sold in bookstores. Instead contemporaries bought them from subscription agents who went door-to-door across America taking orders for "the new work by Mark Twain." Each agent carried a prospectus, a bound volume displaying portions of the forthcoming work. Four propsectuses, photographed in their entirety, are available in the site. The image at left is from the cover of the prospectus for Life on the Mississippi. Clicking on it will take you to an exhibit that shows "virtually" how publishers trained agents to use these samplers to sell books.


  In the section called "Marketing Twain" and the sections devoted to individual books this site contains a lot of material -- textual and visual -- connected with the commercial context of MT's texts. The business of promoting and selling the work of his imagination was an enterprise MT himself engaged in as aggressively as any of his publishers, becoming with Huck Finn his own publisher. The image at left is from the cover of the 1892 catalogue of MT's publishing company. Clicking on it will take you to an exhibit of three catalogues, from three different publishers, where you can see for yourself how the books we still read were defined and marketed in his times.


  The hypertextual capabilities of computers are well-suited for giving modern readers access to the contemporary contexts of MT's various performances, textual and live. Throughout the site the design allows users to explore those contexts in various directions, from the sources MT drew on to the conclusions reviewers and reporters drew from his works. MT's "Seventieth Birthday Speech," for example, is still widely reprinted. Clicking on the image at left will take you to the way the text of that speech is contextualized here, which includes pictures and media accounts of the banquet at which MT gave it.


  The site also includes a number of exhibits designed to allow readers to explore contemporary cultural or ideological contexts. Although it is set in sixth century England, for example, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court reveals a lot about the attitudes and anxieties of late nineteenth-century America. At left is the Corliss Steam Engine that powered the exhibits at the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exposition. Clicking on it will take you to a virtual exhibit designed to suggest MT's, and his times', attitude toward technological progress at the time Connecticut Yankee was written.