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The Written Image: Mark Twain's Book of Animals

In 1906, four years before his death, on April 21, 1910, Mark Twain began systematically recording his life for posterity—having by then achieved the fame and celebrity by which he continues to be known to each new generation of readers. Next fall, the University of California Press, in conjunction with the Mark Twain Project, will publish the first volume of a new edition of his autobiography—"a landmark publication in American letters," according to UC Press director Lynne Withey. In anticipation of the big event, the press has begun rolling out a list of new Twain titles, starting with the publication last month

of Mark Twain's Book of Animals, edited by Twain scholar Shelley Fisher Fishkin. The images above, by master engraver Barry Moser, whose work may be familiar to anyone who's picked up a copy of the Southern Review in recent years (he engraved the oak tree that now graces the spine of each issue), are taken from the collection of writings that highlight Twain's special attachment to animals. Mark Twain's Book of Animals includes stories that have never before appeared in print, including "The Supremacy of the House Fly," "Letters From a Dog to Another Dog Explaining and Accounting for Man," and "The Time I Got an Elephant for Christmas." "We encounter Twain at his silliest and at his most philosophical, at his most sentimental and most sardonic, Twain having fun and Twain seething in anger," writes Fishkin in her critical introduction to the volume. "Twain's writings on animals, in short, are as complex and variegated as the author himself." Forthcoming from UC Press next spring is Jerome Loving's biography Mark Twain: The Adventures of Samuel L. Clemens and new editions of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

Credit: Barry Moser

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The Written Image: Mark Twain's Book of Animals (November/December 2009)
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