The various printings of 1601 reveal how Mark Twain’s ’Fireside Conversation’ has become a part of the American printer’s lore. But more important, its many printings indicate that it has become a popular bit of American folklore, particularly for men and women who have a feeling for Mark Twain. Apparently it appeals to the typographer, who devotes to it his worthy art, as well as to the job printer, who may pull a crudely printed proof. The gay procession of curious printings of 1601 is unique in the history of American printing.
Indeed, the story of the various printings of 1601 is almost legendary. In the days of the “jour.” printer, so I am told, well-thumbed copies were carried from print shop to print shop. For more than a quarter century now it has been one of the chief sources of enjoyment for printers’ devils; and many a young rascal has learned about life from this Fireside Conversation. It has been printed all over the country, and if report is to be believed, in foreign countries as well. Because of the many surreptitious and anonymous printings it is exceedingly difficult, if not impossible, to compile a complete bibliography. Many printings lack the name of the publisher, the printer, the place or date of printing. In many instances some of the data, through the patient questioning of fellow collectors, has been obtained and supplied.
1. [Date, 1601.] Conversation, as it was by the Social Fireside, in the Time of the Tudors.
Description: Pamphlet, pp. [ 1 ]-8, without wrappers or cover, measuring 7x8 inches. The title is Set in caps. and small caps.
The excessively rare first printing, printed in Cleveland, 1880, at the instance of Alexander Gunn, friend of John Hay. Only four copies are believed to have been printed, of which, it is said now, the only known copy is located in the Willard S. Morse collection.
2. Date 1601. Conversation, as it was by the Social Fireside, in the time of the Tudors.
(Mem.—The following is supposed to be an extract from the diary of the Pepys of that day, the same being cup-bearer to Queen Elizabeth. It is supposed that he is of ancient and noble lineage; that he despises these literary canaille; that his soul consumes with wrath to see the Queen stooping to talk with such; and that the old man feels his nobility defiled by contact with Shakespeare, etc., and yet he has got to stay there till Her Majesty chooses to dismiss him.)
Description: Title as above, verso blank; pp. [i]-xi, text; verso p. xi blank. About 8 x 10 inches, printed on handmade linen paper soaked in weak coffee, wrappers. The title is set in caps and small caps.
Colophon: at the foot of p. xi: Done Att Ye Academie Preffe; M DCCC LXXX ii.
The privately printed West Point edition, the first printing of the text authorized by Mark Twain, of which but fifty copies were printed. The story of this printing is fully told in the Introduction.