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Following the Equator (1897)
By Mark Twain
First Edition, First Printing
DESCRIPTION: By 1894 Mark Twain was already famous but was also almost completely broke, because of a bad series of investments in futuristic technology that would've never been able to work at the time they were being invented (he sunk what would now be eight million dollars alone into a machine that was designed to automatically set its own type like a computer); and so to get himself out of debt, he agreed to go on another of his famous worldwide tours, this time to far-flung locations all within the Victorian British Empire (including Australia, India, South Africa and more), not only to do a hugely profitable series of speaking engagements but then to write down his experiences into a third volume of darkly humorous foreign travelogues, after his insanely successful The Innocents Abroad and A Tramp Abroad. The aging Twain disliked the trip, lamenting that he couldn't just stay at home with his family; but the result is the exquisite 1897 Following the Equator, a grand return to his youthful irreverent form, after starting to get a little more high-falutin' in his themes and scope in his recent novels. (Huck Finn had been published less than a decade before, and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court a few years after that.)
For those who only know Twain through classroom assignments on these more famous novels, his travel writing is a real revelation, a series of grumpy and subversive dispatches on the idiocy of the human race no matter where they live, which essentially made him the Gilded Age's version of P.J. O'Rourke. Today's copy is an ultra-rare true first printing in great shape, commanding the premium price it deserves, and will automatically become one of the jewels in any Victoriana or American Humor collection that it's added to, appropriate even for acquisition by a historical society or small museum. Don't hesitate with your interest, for this is sure to sell before too long.
CONDITION: Text: Very Good Minus (VG-). Still in great shape for its 118-year age, with a tight binding and bright gilding still on its spine; but admittedly this copy has a few wear marks on the delicate full-color cover illustration, spine tips that are just a little bit frayed, and a dark-on-dark coffee ring on the front cover that can only be seen when angling the book into the glint of a light. Issued without a dust jacket. A true "first state" of the first edition, as confirmed by the identifying markers listed in the Bibliography of American Literature (BAL 3451): a signature mark of "11" on page 161, and a single publisher mentioned on the title page.
PROVENANCE: Acquired by CCLaP at Bookworks, Chicago, August 2015.