Held at: University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts [Contact Us]3420 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6206
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.
Overview and metadata sections
This collection of periodicals containing articles or anecdotes by Mark Twain, advertisements for his works, and articles about the author and his works was donated by the family of Robert Nevins Birdwhistell. The Birdwhistell collection also includes books by and about Twain, though their titles are not part of this finding aid.
The University of Pennsylvania Library Chronicle no. 42 explains: "[T]hrough Ray L. Birdwhistell, the family of Robert Nevins Birdwhistell, D.V.M., gave in his memory a magnificent collection of the works of Mark Twain—first and later editions, and ephemera." The family made their donation in 1973; at the time, Dr. Birdwhistell's son Raymond L. Birdwhistell was a professor at Penn's Annenberg School for Communication.
Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) was born in 1835 in Missouri, and spent his early adult life as a riverboat pilot and a gold miner, eventually turning to journalism in the 1860s. By 1868, the year the first item in the Library's periodical collection was published, Twain had mostly ended his career as a newspaperman and was instead writing fiction, humor and longer non-fiction pieces for magazines. Twain's first novel, The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today, was published in 1873, followed by twelve more novels, the last published posthumously in 1916. During his career as an author he travelled the United States and the world, offering commentary on what he saw and heard wherever he went, both in writing and through speaking engagements, and became one of America's best-known authors along the way. He died in Connecticut in 1910.
The periodicals from the Library's collection of Mark Twain materials span a period of 100 years. The earliest item in the collection is the July 1868 issue of Bret Harte's magazine The Overland Monthly, containing an article by Twain entitled "By Rail Through France;" the most recent item is the December 20, 1968 issue of Life Magazine, containing an unfinished story about Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer.
The collection consists of about 130 physical items, containing over 150 articles by and about Twain, as well as advertisements for his works. The finding aid lists the publications in which the pieces appear in alphabetical order; individual articles and advertisements are listed inside each publication heading in chronological order. The Library call number for each piece is noted below the entry for that item.
The finding aid illustrates the wide range of periodicals that published Twain's work during (and after) his lifetime, as well as the public fascination with his life and works that continued well after his death.
Of note in the collection: From 1870 to 1871, Twain wrote approximately ten pages of "memoranda" a month for The Galaxy, the "illustrated magazine of entertaining reading." The Library holds each of these issues. (N.B. There were no "Memoranda" for March 1871.)
In 1875, The Atlantic Monthly published a seven part series called "Old Times on the Mississippi," in which Twain tells stories from his time as a riverboat pilot on the Mississippi.
Pudd'nhead Wilson, Twain's seventh novel, is serialized in seven issues of The Century Illustrated Monthly Magazine from 1893-1894.
The collection includes three almanacs that contain anecdotes by Twain. The anecdotes in the Old Farmer's Almanac and Nast's Illustrated Almanac come from "How I Edited an Agricultural Paper Once," which first appeared as part of The Galaxy "Memoranda" for July 1870 (also printed in The Days' Doings, Penn Libraries call number Portfolio AC85 C5915 L870f).
In 1905, Harper's Weekly released a "souvenir number" to celebrate Twain's 70th birthday. The issue included pictures of the dinner tables at Twain's birthday soirée and records of the speeches given. The Library's collection also contains a scrapbook with the souvenir number of Harper's and other articles about Twain (listed under the Harper's Weekly series in the finding aid).
The collection includes another scrapbook, collecting the issues of Harper's Monthly Magazine that serialized Twain's novel Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc in 1895 and 1896. The scrapbook, donated by Miss S. Frances Vankirk, also includes illustrations of the heroine from other sources and other articles relating to Joan of Arc and Mark Twain.
In addition to containing articles by Twain himself, the collection chronicles the reception of Twain's works. The Atlantic Monthly reviewed Twain's works and ran articles about his life into the 1940's; The American Mercury discussed the rating of Twain as an author and answered the question, "Who Reads Mark Twain?" with a readership study taken in public libraries; The Critic profiled Twain "from an Italian point of view"; Life Magazine attempted to illustrate the more subversive side of Twain forty years after his death, and so on.
The meticulousness of the collector is revealed by the presence of one issue of The Californian, an offshoot of Bret Harte's The Overland Monthly. This issue is included in the collection because of a single mention of Twain in an article about the exhibit of Californian literature at the World's Fair.
Gift of Ray L. Birdwhistell, 1973
- University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts
- The processing of this collection was made possible through generous funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, administered through the Council on Library and Information Resources' "Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives" Project.
- Access Restrictions
This collection is open for research use