Mark Twain goes viral on 150th anniversary of his Buffalo arrival

Aug 15, 2019

The young Samuel Clemens grew up along one of the world’s great rivers, the Mississippi, and eventually became a pilot on the riverboats that carried the trade of a continent to the world. Better known today as Mark Twain, he is now an entry on the greatest of trade routes: the World Wide Web.

Mark twain's handwritten manuscript is now available online, pencil scratches and all.
Credit Buffalo & Erie County Library

One of the great treasures of American literature is Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. The hand-written book manuscript sits in a special case at Buffalo's Central Library in the Mark Twain Room.

It goes back to Clemens' days as editor of the former Buffalo Express newspaper and member of a prominent local family by marriage. It was 150 years ago he agreed to come and work in Buffalo. The year was 1869.

Today is now 2019. Library Special Collections manager Meg Cheman said that Huck Finn manuscript is now online where everyone can see the creation of a classic novel.

"They can see what he edited, what he didn't take out, what all of his special markings and scratches are," Cheman said, "and they can look at the unpublished material, too, because there was some passages that didn't get published in the book. So they can read that in the manuscript online."

Cheman said users can zoom in and see where Twain corrected a line in pencil or look underneath the scratching and see the original word scratched out.

"It's actually pretty amazing to do that," she said. "You can see the differences in the inks that he used because he started up the manuscript, then he put it away and brought it back up again, started it again and continued writing."

A doll house view in the 3-D Virtual Reality version of the Mark Twain Room.
Credit Buffalo & Erie County Public Library

The library also unveiled a Virtual Reality system.

"A brand new 3-D Virtual Reality tour of the Mark Twain Room, so people can come in if they can't come to the library," Cheman said. "They can actually log on to the computer and take a look at our Mark Twain Room and see all the different, wonderful artifacts and memorabilia that we have about Twain in Buffalo."

Flanking Huck Finn and a new kiosk showing its digital version are the four copies of the First Folio, the first-printed version of William Shakespeare’s plays, the core versions of the scripts put together by those who knew the playwright and saw the plays on stage.