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Detailed Summary of:

The Adventures of Thomas Jefferson Snodgrass, by Mark Twain

In 1928 book editor and Associated Press reporter Charles Honce, originally from Keokuk, published a collection of Samuel Clemens writings in a limited edition of 375 books. Honce found three letters written by Clemens for the Keokuk Daily Post in 1856 and published them to preserve Clemens' earliest writing. The book was The Adventures of Thomas Jefferson Snodgrass by Mark Twain, edited by Charles Honce, with a foreword by Vincent Starrett, and a note on “A Celebrated Village Idiot” by James O'Donnell Bennett. The story is purported to be about Samuel Clemens’s brother Orion, a Keokuk printer.

In 1856 Clemens was inspired to travel after reading stories of Lynch and Herndon's exploration of the Valley of the Amazon that brought visions of a fortune to be made from collecting cocoa in Brazil.  Clemens approached George Rees of the Post with the idea of sending travel letters to the paper to help pay his way, and Rees agreed to pay him $5 for each letter. The first Snodgrass letter was from St. Louis and was dated October 18, 1856. The next two were from Cincinnati and were dated Nov. 14, 1856 and March 14, 1857. From Cincinnati, Samuel had planned to proceed either to New York or New Orleans and then take boat to South America, but the trip was abandoned.

The letters are written as if Snodgrass is a country bumpkin visiting the city. Many references to Keokuk are made in the letters. The Adventures of Thomas Jefferson Snodgrass is found today in rare book collections.

The Keokuk Public Library Foundation has republished the book. Five hundred pies of this letterpress facsimile edition were printed on Neenah Classic Laid paper. 10 pt Centaur typeface was used, composed on a model 31 Linotype by a University of Iowa student, Bethany Templeton. Bud Lang printed the book on a Heidelberg jobbing press with Gary Frost, of Iowa Book Works, doing the binding. All of the work was done in Denmark, Iowa with overall project management by Larry Raid. The project for the Keokuk Public Library Foundation was advised by the Center for the Book at the University of Iowa.

The book is a close reproduction of the 1928 edition, except for one addition. Tom Dreasler has provided a photograph of a painting of Clemens as a young man to be used as the frontispiece. The portrait is owned by the Keokuk Public Library and is thought to be the earliest painting of Samuel Clemens.

Books are available for purchase for $25.00 (marked down to cost from $49.95).

Click here to read James E. Caron's book review for the Mark Twain Forum.

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The Adventures of Thomas Jefferson Snodgrass, by Mark Twain

Keokuk Public Library Foundation

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