Mark Twain's Literary Resources
download cover image ►

Mark Twain's Literary Resources

A Reconstruction of His Library and Reading (Volume One)

Alan Gribben

Foreword by R. Kent Rasmussen

Title Details

Pages: 328

Illustrations: 40 b&w images

Trim size: 7.000in x 10.000in



Pub Date: 06/10/2019

ISBN: 9-781-5883-8343-3

List Price: $45.00


NewSouth Books

Mark Twain's Literary Resources

A Reconstruction of His Library and Reading (Volume One)

Alan Gribben

Foreword by R. Kent Rasmussen

Skip to

  • Description
  • Reviews

This first installment of the new multi-volume Mark Twain’s Literary Resources: A Reconstruction of His Library and Reading recounts Dr. Alan Gribben’s fascinating 45-year search for surviving volumes from the large library assembled by Twain and his family. That collection of more than 3,000 titles was dispersed through impromptu donations and abrupt public auctions, but over the years nearly a thousand volumes have been recovered. Gribben’s research also encompasses many hundreds of other books, stories, essays, poems, songs, plays, operas, newspapers, and magazines with which Mark Twain was demonstrably familiar.

Gribben published the original edition of Mark Twain’s Library in 1980. Hailed by the eminent Twain scholar Louis J. Budd as “a superb job that will last for generations,” the work nevertheless soon went out of print and for three decades has been a hard-to-find item on the rare book market. Meanwhile, over a distinguished career of writing, teaching, and research on Twain, Gribben continued to annotate, revise, and expand the content such that it has become his life’s masterwork. Thoroughly revised, enlarged, and retitled, Mark Twain’s Literary Resources: A Reconstruction of His Library and Reading now reappears, to greatly expand our comprehension of the incomparable author’s reading tastes and influences.

Volume I traces Twain’s extensive use of public libraries. It identifies Twain’s favorite works, but also reveals his strong dislikes—Chapter 10 is devoted to his “Library of Literary Hogwash,” specimens of atrocious poetry and prose that he delighted in ridiculing. In describing Twain’s habit of annotating his library books, Gribben reveals his methods of detecting forged autographs and marginal notes that have fooled booksellers, collectors, and libraries. The volume’s 25 chapters trace from various perspectives the patterns of Twain’s voracious reading and relate what he read to his own literary outpouring. A “Critical Bibliography” evaluates the numerous scholarly books and articles that have studied Twain’s reading, and an index guides readers to the volume’s diverse subjects.

Twain enjoyed cultivating a public image as a largely unread natural talent; on occasion he even denied being acquainted with titles that he had owned, inscribed, and annotated in his own personal library. He convinced many friends and interviewers that he had no appetite for fiction, poetry, drama, or belles-lettres, yet Gribben reveals volumes of evidence to the contrary. He examines this unlettered pose that Twain affected and speculates about the reasons behind it. In reality, whether Twain was memorizing the classic writings of ancient Rome or the more contemporary works of Milton, Byron, Shelley, Dickens, and Tennyson—or, for that matter, quoting from the best-selling fiction and poetry of his day—he exhibited a lifelong hunger to overcome the brevity of his formal education. Several of Gribben’s chapters explore the connections between Twain’s knowledge of authors such as Malory, Shakespeare, Poe, and Browning, and his own literary works, group readings, and family activities.

Volumes II and III of Mark Twain’s Literary Resources: A Reconstruction of His Library and Reading will be released in 2019 and will deliver an “Annotated Catalog” arranged from A to Z, documenting in detail the staggering scope of Twain’s reading.

Alan Gribben’s critical masterpiece, Mark Twain’s Literary Resources: A Reconstruction of His Library and Reading, asserts itself as one of a handful of truly invaluable resources in Mark Twain studies. A heroic compendium of analytical essays, annotated catalogs, critical bibliographies, and index guides, this work is the definitive study of the literary, philosophical, historical, and scientific texts that shaped Mark Twain’s mind and art.

—Joseph Csicsila, professor, Eastern Michigan University, coauthor of Heretical Fictions: Religion in the Literature of Mark Twain

A labor of love . . . . scrupulously researched. Meticulously chronicles Mark Twain’s library and literary influences.

—Publishers Weekly

Alan Gribben is a scholar's scholar, and Mark Twain's Literary Resources is his masterwork. It will retain its fertile usefulness so long as Twain studies exist. Volume One, now available, isn't just a bounteous treasure of information and an important corrective to the most common misperception of Twain. It's also an engaging record of Gribben's tireless, lifelong adventure in literary sleuthing.

—Frederick Crews, Emeritus Professor of English, University of California, Berkeley

Mark Twain’s Literary Resources lets readers cozy up to Mark Twain and peep over his shoulder as he reads: a rare and rewarding vantage point.

—Kevin J. Hayes, author of Mark Twain, a brief critical biography

Alan Gribben has devoted decades to cataloging and studying this legendary author's lifetime of reading. His Mark Twain's Literary Resources is the magnificent result. It complements Twain’s autobiography and biographies of Twain and will enhance any reference library.

—Maxine Hong Kingston, author of The Woman Warrior and other novels

One of the foundational sources of Mark Twain studies for nearly forty years, Alan Gribben’s Mark Twain’s Library: A Reconstruction has long been a scholarly treasure. Gribben's revised and much expanded compendium, Mark Twain’s Literary Resources: A Reconstruction of His Library and Reading, will prove to be the standard reference guide on the topic for the next many decades. These volumes belong in all research libraries and on the shelves of all nineteenth-century Americanists.

—Gary Scharnhorst, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of English, University of New Mexico

Dr. Alan Gribben’s Mark Twain’s Literary Resources offers a fascinating peek into the mind of an American literary genius. The book’s mind-boggling wealth of information could only have been gathered using extraordinary research skills and dogged determination. The work is an invaluable tool for Mark Twain scholars and sets a new standard for generations of scholars to come.

—Laura Skandera Trombley, president, University of Bridgeport

Mark Twain knew that you can’t write if you don’t read, and his reading was as wide and deep as his beloved Mississippi River, flowing through his life and writings from beginning to end. It is in large measure thanks to Alan Gribben’s Mark Twain’s Literary Resources that we understand how Twain’s extensive reading nourished his authorial genius. Gribben’s achievement is no mere library catalog, but rather a voyage of discovery that expertly navigates the complex channels of Twain’s literary sources. They are all charted here, awaiting further exploration, beckoning both the avid reader and serious scholar, and often as entertaining as Twain’s own published writings. Here is a masterpiece of research and presentation that will serve as a model for all future enquiries into the wellsprings of the creative process.

—Kevin Mac Donnell, Mark Twain scholar, foremost Mark Twain collector

From the day I first discovered Alan Gribben’s Mark Twain’s Library: A Reconstruction over twenty years ago, it became one of only two reference works that I have kept within arm’s reach of my desk. Gribben’s research has served as an inspiration and guidepost enabling me to make my own discoveries. His new updated and expanded multi-volume Mark Twain’s Literary Resources has been one of my most eagerly anticipated publications throughout the years. With the hundreds of new entries in these volumes, it is the most extensive mapping of Mark Twain’s intellectual development that will ever be undertaken. It is an essential reference work for any Mark Twain researcher or biographer.

—Barbara Schmidt, independent researcher, a Mark Twain Journal Legacy Scholar, and publisher of

Alan Gribben’s Mark Twain’s Literary Resources: A Reconstruction of His Library and Reading brings together in three volumes a series of interconnected essays, many revisions of his earlier published works, and a significant update of annotated titles in Twain’s personal library. This new edition replaces the invaluable Mark Twain’s Library: A Reconstruction — long out of print and nearly impossible to obtain. The introductory essays in the first volume render in toto a penetrating critique of the reader behind the writer who, as Ernest Hemingway once said, reinvented American literature.

—Jerome Loving, author of Mark Twain: The Adventures of Samuel L. Clemens

Mark Twain’s Literary Resources is the definitive guide to Mark Twain’s intellectual universe. Alan Gribben discusses everything from the elaborately bound parlor-table gift books known as Friendship's Offerings to the literary, historical, and religious works that directly influenced America’s greatest writer. This book, the most useful reference book on Twain ever written, is a classic. And despite what Twain said about classics, this one will be read again and again.

—Joe B. Fulton, professor of English at Baylor University, author of five books on Mark Twain, including the most recent Mark Twain Under Fire: Reception and Reputation, Criticism and Controversy 1851-2015

About the Author/Editor

DR. ALAN GRIBBEN co-founded the Mark Twain Circle of America, compiled Mark Twain’s Library: A Reconstruction, and recently co-edited Mark Twain on the Move: A Travel Reader. Gribben has written numerous essays about Mark Twain’s life and image. He teaches on the English faculty of Auburn University at Montgomery and edits the Mark Twain Journal.