Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Canvasser's Tale by Mark Twain

As I've mentioned in a previous posting, it's often difficult to find a good text to print at the Contre Coup Press, due in part to the fact the the edition size is so small that authors don't want to give me a manuscript with such microscopic exposure. So we have adopted a simple rule of thumb when seeking a text to print: when in doubt, print something by Mark Twain.
I have had a lifelong interest in Mark Twain, having read many of his books when I was still a child. In the early 1970s my interest became almost an obsession, as I read through nearly all of his published works as well as books about him - I probably read around 200 books about the great Mr. Clemens. I collected his first editions and at one time had probably over 20 firsts - during a time of difficulty, I was forced to sell the collection. I still find that Mark Twain's writing always strikes a responsive chord in me, and I laugh out loud at his humor.
So in 2000 I decided to reprint one of his tall tales, this one about collectors. It's entitled The Canvasser's Tale, the title referring to door-to-door salesmen, who were called canvassers during the 19th century. This particular canvasser tells the sad story about his uncle, an avid collector of various odds and ends, who ultimately decides to collect echoes. Yes, that's right - echoes. The story is very funny, to my way of thinking anyway.
My edition is 7-3/4 by 5-1/4 inches, with a lovely binding by the Campbell-Logan Bindery in a cloth spine with marbled paper sides. The book is short - only 15 pages. I set it in the Cochin typeface and printed 20 numbered copies. The paper is Frankfurt - Henry Morris gave me a quantity of offcuts of this paper, and I have printed quite a few books and pamphlets on the paper. Since the story concerns a collector who is intent upon collecting items that are unique, one-of-a-kind objects, I noted in the colophon that the owner of a copy of this book would have just such a unique item, because the book in their hand would be the only one with the particular number of that copy.
I've printed several stories by Mark Twain, and will describe them in future postings.

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