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Mark Twain (1835-1910)

Mark Twain, one of America's best-known and well-loved authors, was born on November 30, 1835. His works have been translated into hundreds of languages, and Hollywood continues to produce film adaptations of his books. The following Special Collection focuses on his life and work.


The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Huck tells of his adventures travelling down the Mississippi River on a raft with an escaped slave, and of the many people they encounter, including a pair of swindlers and two families in a feud.

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer: The adventures of a boy growing up in a 19th century Mississippi River town as he plays hooky on an island, witnesses a crime, hunts for the pirates' treasure, and becomes lost in a cave.

The Celebrated Jumping Frog and Other Stories: A collection of some of Mark Twain's best short stories.

The Complete Essays Of Mark Twain: Now Collected for the First Time: These works are preceded with an introduction by Charles Neider and drawings by Mark Twain.

The Innocents Abroad and Roughing It: Two humorous narratives in one volume by Mark Twain, published in 1869 and based on Twain's letters to newspapers about his 1867 steamship voyage to Europe, Egypt and the Holy Land.

Life on the Mississippi: Twain reflects on the people and places of his childhood, the way things looked and felt in the memorable locales of his growing up and his later return to them in maturity.

A Murder, A Mystery and a Marriage: A recently resurrected 1876 Twain manuscript; Twain's original idea was to give a skeleton plot involving a mysterious stranger and a murder to other writers (including, bizarrely, Henry James) and have the Atlantic Monthly publish all their versions. It was a scheme presumably engineered to show Twain's superiority.

Pudd'nhead Wilson and Those Extraordinary Twins: Twain's basic point that upbringing is everything is portrayed in this dark and complex satire on people's inability to see beyond racial stereotypes.

The Selected Letters of Mark Twain: A marvelous collection of letters, from Samuel Clemen's 18th year to his death at age 74.

The Wit and Wisdom of Mark Twain: This sparkling anthology of Mark Twain's most trenchant remarks has been culled from his books, speeches, letters and conversations recorded by contemporaries.

DVDs & Videos

Several of Mark Twain's books have been adapted to film.

The adventures of Huckleberry Finn : Huck & runaway slave, Jim, float on a raft down the Mississippi and encounter a pair of comical swindlers. This version, made in 1939, stars Mickey Rooney. The book has been filmed several times over the years: Elijah Wood starred  in the 1993 version; Patrick Day portrayed Huck in the 1985 version.

Life on the Mississippi (DVD): An account of a young man's apprenticeship as a river pilot on the Mississippi River in the 1850s

The Prince and the Pauper (Videocassette):  A poor boy with an abusive father dreams of a life steeped in riches and adventure. Living a life of royalty, Prince Edward dreams of playing with other children and frolicking in the mud. The two boys meet and become friends. In a whimsical act, they exchange clothing and are mistaken for one another

Pudd'nhead Wilson (DVD): A slave woman switches her light-skinned baby with her master's son to protect him in a time of strong racial prejudice

Biographies of Mark Twain

Dangerous Water: A Biography of the Boy Who Became Mark Twain by Ron Powers.

Inventing Mark Twain: The Lives of Samuel Langhorne Clemens by Andrew Jay Hoffman.

Mark Twain: The Bachelor Years by Margaret Sanborn.

My Father, Mark Twain by Clara Clemens.

The Autobiography of Mark Twain by Mark Twain.

Biographies: DVD

Mark Twain (DVD): This Ken Burns production recounts Mark Twain's life primarily through his own words.

Mark Twain tonight! (DVD): A special one-man show that captures the flamboyant humor and irreverence of Mark Twain by using the words of Twain, his stinging commentary on politics, the art of lying, religion, patriotism. Starring Hal Holbrook.

Mark Twain's America (DVD): Over 1,000 photos eloquently reveal Mark Twain's rich and varied life. The story spans his career as prolific writer, Mississippi riverboat pilot, drama critic, publisher, and world traveler, while at the same time watching the rise of America from frontier days to world power. Originally produced for television broadcast in 1960.


The Mark Twain Papers & Project (The Bancroft Library, University of California-Berkeley): This combination of original and photocopied documents now makes it possible to read virtually every document in Mark Twain's hand known to survive, without ever leaving Berkeley.

Mark Twain Quotations, Newspaper Collections & Related Resources: A wonderful source of Mark Twain's pithiest comments on religion, politics and social customs.

Mark Twain in His Times (University of Virginia): This interpretive archive, drawn largely from the resources of the Barrett Collection, focuses on how "Mark Twain" and his works were created and defined, marketed and performed, reviewed and appreciated. The goal is to allow readers, scholars, students and teachers to see what "Mark Twain and His Times" said about each other, in a way that can speak to us today. Mark Twain: This is a companion site to Ken Burns' PBS special, Mark Twain, which aired in January, 2002. This site offers behind the scenes information, classroom activities, selected writings, plus further readings.