First printing copies of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain are among the most sought after books in the antiquarian book world. Among the greatest novels ever written and arguably the first truly great American novel, Huck has been a mainstay for readers and collectors since its release in February of 1885. As with other books of its time, Huckleberry Finn was originally sold by subscription. Sales agents would travel near and far with their samples and their “sales pitch” in the hopes of signing folks up to buy the book in exchange for a commission that would be paid to them by the publisher, Charles Webster (Mark Twain’s publishing house). This selling began well before the books were actually released to the public, but there is no doubt that hundreds if not thousands of them were printed before the books eventual release date. The book was intentionally held back and was not released to customers for the Christmas season of 1884. Why??? The penis problem!
Illustrations for Huckleberry Finn were done by Edward W. Kemble. Kemble was hand-picked by Twain and after a rocky first outing, his illustrations seemed to please Twain. The book was written and the illustrations were complete. Printing began! Salesman started to receive their copies of the book in late 1884. It didn’t take long for a salesman in Chicago to spot the lude illustration of Uncle Silas showing off his penis to a young lad on page 283. The illustration “Who do you reckon it is” had been altered to show Uncle Silas brandishing an excited member. Printing was halted and as many copies as could be found were recalled. Twain was pissed! A reward for the vandal was offered and Huck missed the Christmas 1884 shopping season.
Fast forward 93 years to 1977… Star Wars is the hottest book and movie on the planet! George Lucas, Charlie Lippincott and the guys around in the early Star Wars Corporation days are scrambling to license, produce, procure and otherwise release all sorts of Star Wars memorabilia as one would hope to do with such a smash success. Enter Topps trading Cards and the original Star Wars Card #207! Once again – THE PENIS PROBLEM. This time, it looks like C-3PO is a bit too excited at the prospect of chasing the Rebel Scum around… Stories differ on this one, with some saying the excited member on our golden friend was intentional and others saying it was just bad lighting etc… After seeing the card many times (and the corrected version) I tend to believe this was intentional just as with good ole Uncle Silas in Huckleberry Finn. It just goes to show that no matter what century and no matter the product, a vandal is a vandal and an excited member never ceases to be a source of entertainment for most of us out here… While I cannot condone vandalism of course, I must admit that I love each of these stories and am predictably happy that both are out there waiting for book and paper nuts like me to find in the stacks!
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