A Tramp Abroad

The Clemens family travelled to Germany, Switzerland, Italy, France, and England between April 1878 and August 1879. They were joined by their Hartford friend, the Reverend Joseph Twitchell, during their first summer in Europe, and he and Clemens took a month-long “tramp” together. Their adventures were documented in Mark Twain’s third travel book, A Tramp Abroad, in which the two “pedestrians” took a walking tour through the Alps by means of every conceivable conveyance possible other than their feet. As the author advised, it was a book “written by one loafer for a brother loafer to read.”

Clemens paid close attention to the design of his books. He was obsessed with his word count and the images chosen to illustrate his text—the length and look of his product. In the summer of 1879 he exchanged a flurry of letters with his publisher, Frank Bliss, about the illustrator and the illustrations selected for this book.

Through this series of letters, a meticulous Mark Twain demonstrates his knowledge of contemporary printing techniques and shows sensitivity to public perception. He frets over an engraving depicting him drinking wine and offers his American publisher a fair amount of unsolicited advice on how to run his business.

Biographer Albert Bigalow Paine had his own opinion about the book’s illustrations. He observed:

Its pictures—drawn, for the most part, by a young art student named Brown, whom Clemens had met in Paris—were extraordinarily bad, while the crude engraving process by which they had been reproduced, tended to bring them still further into disrepute.

He respectfully added that the book “presents Mark Twain at his best, and at his worst. Almost any American writer was better than Mark Twain at his worst: Mark Twain at his best was unapproachable.”

Mark Twain. A Tramp Abroad. Hartford, Connecticut: American Publishing Company, 1880.
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Describing his third travel book, A Tramp Abroad, Mark Twain writes: “I call it a gossipy volume. . .It talks about anything and everything and always drops a subject the moment my interest in it begins to slacken. . ..” Loosely structured and filled with digressions and side tales, the book documents Clemens’s 1878 adventures in Germany and Switzerland with his Hartford friend, Joseph Twitchell.

Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections
Cornell University Library

Mark Twain. A Tramp Abroad. Hartford, Connecticut: American Publishing Company, 1880. First edition.
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A pencil note in the book indicates that this copy is from the library of Mark Twain’s publisher, Frank Bliss, who succeeded his father, Elisha, at the American Publishing Company. Mark Twain wrote many letters to Frank Bliss about the illustrations he wanted—and an image he did not want—included in A Tramp Abroad.

From the collection of Susan Jaffe Tane

Mark Twain. A Tramp Abroad. London: Chatto & Windus, 1880. First edition.
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Despite earlier problems with British publishers pirating his books, Clemens signed a contract with Andrew Chatto, making him Mark Twain’s authorized British publisher.

From the collection of Susan Jaffe Tane

Mark Twain. A Tramp Abroad. Leipzig: Tauchnitz, 1880. Authorized ed. 2 v. in 1.
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Clemens was flattered that the German publisher Bernhard Tauchnitz included this book in his Collection of British and American Authors series, and very pleased that he paid him royalties for his work.

Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections
Cornell University Library

Mark Twain. Illustrations for A Tramp Abroad. Two pages, written to Frank Bliss on June 10, 1879.
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Writing from Paris while working on his second travel book, A Tramp Abroad, Clemens discusses contemporary illustration techniques, and notes: “I don’t like those stippled processes half as well as I thought I should, & am glad the plates are not to be made here. Pen & ink on plain paper looks much cleaner & stronger.”

From the collection of Susan Jaffe Tane

Mark Twain. Size of the A Tramp Abroad illustrations. June 13, [1879].
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Clemens suggests to Bliss that he wait until he has received all of the illustrations for the book before deciding which should be included as full-page plates and which should be used in smaller versions.

From the collection of Susan Jaffe Tane

Mark Twain. Objecting to an illustration. Two pages, written to Frank Bliss on June 15, 1879.
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Writing again from Paris on the matter of the illustrations for A Tramp Abroad, Clemens writes, “I think I wouldn’t use the picture which represents me lying on my back drinking from a bottle. It is not very well done, & there is no reference in the MS to that manner of ’taking an observation.’”

From the collection of Susan Jaffe Tane

Mark Twain. Proofs for A Tramp Abroad. June 17, [1879].
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Clemens asks Bliss to “process” an illustration and send back proofs so that Walter F. Brown, the artist he wanted to illustrate the book, could adjust his style to suit the process: “I suppose he wants to know what sort of a process it is, so he can draw to its best capacities.”

From the collection of Susan Jaffe Tane

Mark Twain. The value of A Tramp Abroad. [docketed August 9, but actually September] 1879.
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Clemens writes to inquire when he will receive the manuscript of A Tramp Abroad for revising and reminds Bliss to put a value of “$500—or $1000” on it when he sends it.

From the collection of Susan Jaffe Tane

Mark Twain. “Moses” woodcut for A Tramp Abroad. One page, September 16 [1879].
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Clemens, writing from Elmira, New York, reports that he has asked his illustrator, Walter Brown, to ship a woodcut, titled “Titian’s Moses,” by European Express. This image was used as the frontispiece for the book.

From the collection of Susan Jaffe Tane

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