Autobiography of Mark Twain, Volume 1, Now Online

The Mark Twain Project has now released Autobiography of Mark Twain, Volume 1 free online. And an amazing presentation it is. In addition to making the whole volume available without charge, the online version contains many explanatory notes that are not in the hardcopy edition. And they are side notes. This is an online publication scheme that the project has used for their electronic publication of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer among the Indians and Other Unfinished Stories as well as their great online collection of Mark Twain’s Letters, 1853–1880. Side notes work very well with the form factor of most modern computer displays. They are right there to be consulted or ignored as one’s mood requires.
I’m still very glad I bought the hardcopy edition. It’s more portable than the online edition, for me it’s a little easier to read and I still love books. I hope, as they are published, the whole three volume set will be on my bookshelf – but not before I read each of them in turn and consult the online versions as I do.
I think it nearly impossible to overstate just how wonderful this publication is. The hardcopy and the online editions each set new and very high standards for the publication for scholarly works, even scholarly works with great popular appeal. Together, there is simply nothing like them.
Update: To make one of my thoughts explicit: Channeling Walt Whitman, other academic disciplines with potential large audiences, like, say, biblical studies, to pick an example from another abnormal interest, should look at these publications long and long.

One thought on “Autobiography of Mark Twain, Volume 1, Now Online”

  1. My copy of the Autobiography came today. One thing I don’t like about it (though I’m sure it makes the volume more manageable) is the omission of the textual notes; online publication is very cool, but I don’t like having to get up and go to my computer every time I want to check some detail of the text. (Also textual notes should last (a few centuries anyway), damn it, and I have my doubts about the longevity of online publications. I’m not saying that the people of the twenty-fifth century won’t laugh at such sentiments, but I have more confidence in the survival of paper copies than in electronic.)
    The editorial work is amazing, given the tangle of MSS (some missing) they have to work with. And the detailed explanatory notes (lacking in previous editions) are much needed; I’ve barely started reading and I’ve already learned stuff I didn’t know before.

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