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Paging Through History

Clara's original intention was to bequeath her father's papers to Yale University, in gratitude for the honorary degree Yale had given him his first in But during Clara's lifetime the papers were in the care of four successive editors who served as literary executors or editors for the Clemens estate, each with quite different ideas about who should be permitted to see the papers, and which of them if any should be published.

In January , Clemens gave Paine unstinted access to these papers. After Clemens's death, Paine worked closely with Clara and with Harper and Brothers to publish a very limited sample from them, and to prevent anyone else from publishing more.

Following his magisterial three-volume biography , Paine published roughly letters , about two-fifths of the autobiography , and fewer than half the notebooks He was a typical Victorian editor who felt an obligation to silently alter or remove passages from the texts he did publish, and to block access to the rest when he thought them unworthy of his hero.

But when Paine died in , the trustees wisely named DeVoto to replace him. DeVoto's first task was to gather the documents, which had been stored in various bank vaults, the Lincoln Warehouse in New York, Paine's own residence, and even a trunk of about manuscripts which Paine had sent to Clara for safekeeping. DeVoto also worked hard at publishing a selection from them: But Clara prevented publication of Letters from the Earth until , almost twenty-five years after DeVoto had prepared it in He resigned as literary editor in November In January the papers arrived in California on a ten-year loan to the Huntington.

By Wecter had published two collections of letters that were not part of the Mark Twain Papers. But his major project was a definitive biography based largely on these documents, to which he had exclusive access. Partly because of that project, he was disinclined to grant others much access to the papers, and he was opposed to one of DeVoto's projects, a complete collection of Mark Twain's letters, at least until his biography had been published.

In , however, Wecter took a job several hundred miles north of San Marino in the history department of the University of California at Berkeley. Persuasive and courtly Texan that he was, Wecter easily convinced Clara to allow him to take the papers with him to Berkeley.

And before the papers even arrived in their new home, Wecter persuaded Clara to bequeath them to UC Berkeley rather than to Yale. On 20 June she signed a codicil giving ownership of the papers but not their copyright, which the trustees of Clemens's estate retained to the University of California.

Almost exactly one year later, on 24 June , Wecter died unexpectedly at age forty-four, having completed only the early years of his projected biography, later published by his widow as Sam Clemens of Hannibal The papers remained in the Berkeley library, without an editor in charge, until , when Henry Nash Smith was persuaded to join the Berkeley English department, and to accept a half-time appointment as Mark Twain's fourth literary editor.

And in that same year he helped negotiate a contract between the trustees of Clemens's estate and the UC Regents, enabling for the first time regular publication of Mark Twain manuscripts contained in the papers. That contract and its renewal in formed the necessary basis for the scholarly edition, published exclusively by the University of California Press. Eleven months after the contract was signed, on 19 November , Clara Clemens Samossoud died at the age of Clara's death transferred ownership of the papers to the UC Regents.

After twenty-five years of wandering from institution to institution they had at last settled down. The death of Clara's daughter, Nina, in was followed almost immediately by the death of Jacques Samossoud, Clara's second husband. All these events made public access to the papers significantly easier than it had ever been before. Anderson took control of the papers in , just three years before federal grant funds from the National Endowment for the Humanities NEH became available for large editorial projects devoted to major nineteenth-century American authors.

He spent his entire career at the Papers managing the editorial and fiscal needs of a selected edition of them, and starting in an equally ambitious effort to edit the published works. Ever since the papers arrived in , the University has steadily added to them. Original documents have been purchased, or received as gifts, and added to the basic core: Paine, DeVoto, and Wecter had all made efforts to acquire copies of original documents owned by other institutions and private collectors.

But the advent of two scholarly editions and of inexpensive copying technology kicked their comparatively casual practice into higher gear. In , for the first time, truly systematic efforts were made to acquire copies of everything in Mark Twain's hand that was available in public institutions or private collections.

The archive was and still is completely open to undergraduates, graduates, and independent scholars, not just to those at work on the two editions. The archive was very imperfectly organized at the time, and visitors usually had to spend a summer, if not longer, in pursuit of accurate information. That would change only with the advent of the personal computer and electronic catalogs first used in the s. One year before the contract for the Papers series was signed, in the fall of , John C.

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