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Roughing It.

This is the kind of scholarly production that could potentially reignite controversies about publicly funded editorial projects. Here is a massively annotated edition of a famous American author's travel narrative that is already available in other, simpler, more inexpensive formats. The Acknowledgements alone take up three entire small-type pages, so methodical and comprehensive has been the editors' indebtedness; the formidable annotations total 500 pages. Most problematical, perhaps, is the fact that the same University of California Press issued a supposedly definitive version of the same literary work in 1972 - a 673-page edition that raised eyebrows then because of its extensive (142-page) textual and explanatory additions. The dust jacket of that earlier volume promised "a text clear of publisher's changes and typographical errors. . ., which represents the only authentic text to appear since 1871, when Mark Twain completed the manuscript." Franklin R. Rogers and Paul Baender, who edited that 1972 edition of Roughing It, have essentially disappeared from this recrudescence, although Rogers's scholarly articles and books are listed in the References pages. The 1993 edition makes only one allusion to its predecessor (a terse statement at the foot of the half-title page to the effect that it "supersedes the 1972 edition"), as though that former volume - which currently resides in virtually all reputable research libraries - barely existed.

The obvious reason that one might second-guess the appearance of this meticulously constructed text is that, despite seven other titles having been brought into print in "The Works of Mark Twain" series (scheduled eventually to form a complete set of Twain's previously published books) - including A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (1979), The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1980), and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1988) - literally dozens of his works remain to be edited. In other words, scholars have now been provided with two full editions of Twain's second travel narrative, but still must rely on other publishers for the majority of his travelogues: Innocents Abroad, A Tramp Abroad, Life on the Mississippi, Following the Equator. So the burden of proof seems to fall upon the editors of this 1993 Roughing It to convince us that a repetition of the earliest "Works of Mark Twain" volume outweighs all other labors that might have been undertaken by the team assembled by Frederick Anderson, Henry Nash Smith, and (since 1980) Robert H. Hirst in the Bancroft Library at the University of California, Berkeley.

In view of this large hovering question mark, the advantages of this Roughing It deserve to be inventoried comparatively against the 1972 volume, while taking into account the features of Mark Twain's original (Hartford, Connecticut) edition of 1872. Both the Works volumes from the University of California Press are bound in orange cloth, but from there on their similarities dwindle. The first visual change that leaps into view is announced on the 1993 title page: "Illustrated by True Williams, Edward F. Mullen, and Others" (the 1872 edition, whose title page is also reprinted, merely stated, "Fully Illustrated by Eminent Artists"). Not a single one of these lively, imaginative pictures made it into the 1972 volume. In the 1993 reissue, the precise position of the 304 full-size facsimile illustrations differs from page to page from the first edition, but their general placement corresponds within each chapter. As in the American Publishing Company edition of 1872, the type of the new version swirls playfully around many of the illustrations and their droll captions. (One almost wishes for a separate supplement discussing these drawings individually, though they do receive attention in the general introduction.)

The text, too, has undergone analogously drastic changes. To take one of the hundreds of possible examples, the well-known excerpt in chapter 53 that Hal Holbrook often rehearses - the tale of Jim Blaine and his Grandfather's Ram - refers to a "barbacue" that the natives made of the missionaries, whereas that same word has been rendered as "barbecue" in 1972. The massive list of "Emendations of the Copy-Text and Rejected Substantives" enters upon copious detail, sometimes involving Twain's other publications, discarded manuscript pages, and personal journals in justifying each editorial decision. The Explanatory Notes, too, are enormously expanded (now by themselves occupying nearly 200 pages of reduced-sized type), making the seventy-three-page 1972 notes seem almost perfunctory by comparison. Where Franklin R. Rogers had annotated a select list of names, places, and incidents, the revised edition voluminously conveys information about guns, stage coaches, Mormons, geological formations, the Hawaiian Islands, and sundry other matters, all of it fascinating. Surely henceforth no scholar can comment confidently on Roughing It without looking over these complex reports.

Best of all, this serious treatment of Mark Twain's often-hilarious work restores Roughing It to the prominence it initially held when it sold more than 90,000 copies in the United States and England during its first year; once again the chronology of Twain's journey to the Far West and the Sandwich Islands, embellished with stories of the Western coyote, Bemis and the buffalo, Jack Slade, Buck Fanshaw's funeral, Captain Ned Blakely, Dick Baker and his cat, and other characters and incidents heads the procession of his literary works. Printed on acid-free Troy Book Cream paper, the reproductions of the original illustrations show off the drawings far better than surviving copies of the first edition. The entire Roughing It venture, it might be said, constitutes a valuable measure of the growing sophistication and progress of the Mark Twain Project under the general editorship of Robert H. Hirst. Revising one of its early editions, and thus in effect conceding shortcomings in the initial stages of the operation, is a daring gamble, and one hopes not a costly one to the Mark Twain Project as a whole. However, it also demonstrates graphically the immense distance the Project has come in producing scholarly editions that offer incredible fidelity to Twain's intentions, publications, and milieux.

ALAN GRIBBEN Auburn University at Montgomery
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Author:Gribben, Alan
Publication:The Mississippi Quarterly
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Mar 22, 1995
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