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Huckleberry Finn Group Blog Post: Print & Digital Versions

Print Version #1: Great Illustrated Classics (2008)

Despite being 240 pages, this edition of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is abridged. The large print and the full-page illustrations make it seem a more child-friendly version of the text.  While it is important for children and teenagers to be able to access classic literature, much of the gravity of this text is lost in this edition. For instance, the images of Huck and Jim’s smiling faces on the front cover instantly set a cheerful and comedic tone for this text, not alluding in any way to the novel’s struggle with issues of slavery and a gray morality.  Furthermore, the old textbook-like illustrations coupled with the brief descriptions (ex. “Lessons make Huck tired”) somewhat oversimplify the novel.


Digital Version #1: CC Prose and Librivox (2011)

On the other hand, CC Prose and Librivox’s audiobook version on Youtube ( enhances the text.  It includes synchronized text and an interactive transcript that allows the reader to skip around to different parts of the book.  The Librivox audio read by Mark F. Smith is also quite pleasant to hear. Aesthetically, this version is simple: it is laid out like a scroll with a faint image in the background; the text is large and easy to follow as the speaker reads.  Like the Great Illustrated Classics edition, this version is also probably marketed toward young students, but unlike the 2008 novel, it is not abridged or depicted in any certain way.


Print Version #2: Clarkson N. Potter, Inc. (1981)

The Annotated Huckleberry Finn is reproduced from the first edition of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, which was issued by Chatto & Windus from London in 1884.  The Introduction, Notes, and Bibliography were written and compiled by Michael Patrick Hearn.  The introduction provides extensive history on the writing of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.  It explains how the work came to be written as an autobiography of Huck, how Kemble became the illustrator, and the reactions the book received – to name a few examples.  Throughout the book, there are many illustrations and photos included.  These photos can range from Kemble’s drawings for the original text to an image of a location about which Twain writes.  These photos can also accompany an annotation.  The annotations would be helpful for younger readers as they explain the scenes of the book in a deeper context.  They often clarify slang that a character uses or make sense of references that would be unfamiliar to a modern reader.  The book even provides an index for words and phrases frequently mentioned.  This version is incredibly helpful to readers who want to understand The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in a deeper context.


Digital Version #2: Gutenberg (2004)

On, readers have multiple options in choosing how to view the text of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.  Project Gutenberg is a producer of free eBooks and accepts donations in order to add more books to grow their collection.  The reader can chose to receive the text of Huckleberry Finn in HTML form, or chose to download it to Dropbox, Google Drive, Kindle, or OneDrive.  Texts with and without pictures are also offered.  Readers who do not want a hard copy of the text will find the various formats that Gutenberg offers to be very valuable.  The lack of annotations in this edition, however, may not make it as child-friendly as the Clarkson & Potter edition, perhaps leading it to not be used as much in grade school English classes that wish to tackle the classic.


Print Version #3: Tom Doherty Associates, Inc. (1985)

The title page of this version of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn includes a short passage from the part of the story during which Tom Sawyer creates a gang with the other boys. Next, a few pages are devoted to a summary of Mark Twain’s life and career, written by Keith Nelson. Before the notice and explanatory (included in the UVa eText), there is one more addition to this print version: a preface.

This eight-page passage includes themes, analysis of Huck and Jim, and a view on the significance of the book’s placement in Mark Twain’s career. Both this and an afterward, also focused on character development, are by Keith Nelson.

Perhaps because of the date of printing and perhaps because of the book having been used before, the pages have a dry, soft feel and are of a slightly faded hue, unlike the white, crisp papers of modern books.  This could aid readers in getting in touch with the time-period of the book.


Digital Version #3: UVa Library (1993-1995)

The UVa Library’s eText of Huckleberry Finn is derived from the 1912 Harper & Brothers edition of the book. The text is available in a single webpage layout, or a chapter-by-chapter format, as accessed by the Table of Contents link.  Unlike in the Tom Doherty Associates version, each chapter has several words or phrases hyperlinked; upon clicking the links, readers can view pictures, needing only to press the “Back” button to return to the text.  So, in this format, viewing pictures is entirely optional, thus suiting both children and a more mature audience.  The Notice and Explanatory from the original text are also included, but the UVa Library’s version lacks an explanation of cultural relevance, which is found in the preface of the Tom Doherty Associates edition.

Particularly interesting are the chapters’ headers.  UVa’s eText does not include the chapter titles that are present in print editions; chapters are denoted with a “Chapter” followed by a roman numeral.  However, the decorations of some of these headers lend insight into the respective chapters’ contents.  For example, Chapter VI (called “Pap Struggles with the Death Angel” in the print edition), has what looks like blood dripping down from each character.  This seems pertinent, as Huck is beaten by his father in the chapter.  Other headers have elements of nature, appropriate when considering Huck and Jim’s outdoors adventure.


Print Version #4: Prospectus (1st Edition – 1884)

This prospectus, donated by C.W. Barrett to UVa’s Special Collections advertises the First Edition of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.  Unlike other print and digital forms of the text, this version is very fragile, needing to always be kept in a plastic sleeve.  This edition includes a humorous advertisement: “See the book. It speaks for itself.”  This perhaps shines light on the fact that the first Huckleberry Finn novels were sold by subscription.


Digital Version #4: Disney (1993)

This adoption of The Adventures of Huck Finn is the most recent of movie adaptations.  Huck Finn, played by a young Elijah Wood, dominates the film as he does in the novel.  However, Tom Sawyer is not represented in the film, an interesting decision by director Stephen Sommers. The novel itself is derived from Tom Sawyer (1876), and thus the modernity of the movie suggests a severance between them.  Smaller details in the movie have been altered from all versions of the text.  For example, instead of befriending Buck Grangerford, as is written in the text, Huck befriends a “Billy” Grangerford, to relate more to the prevalence of 20th century viewers.  As seen in different novel editions, the n-word is, perhaps unsurprisingly, not used in the movie.  This adaptation purposefully omitted offensive language to remain true to an era of racial sensitivity, signaling a “corrected” Huckleberry Finn.  The choice also seems apt when considering Disney’s youthful audience.


Print Version #5: Charles L. Webster (1891)

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Tom Sawyer’s Comrade) contains newspaper clippings and postcards related to Mark Twain and the novel.  From the pictures below, it can be seen that the owner of this book was a true follower of the novel and its author.  The illustrations were replicas of the first edition.  It is extremely obvious that Herbert Reibach, the man who donated this book to the University, loved this book and intended for it to be studied as a historical document.

Unlike more recent versions (print or digital), this one had to be examined on a bookstand and could not be taken out of the library.  The UVa Special Collections, like other institutions, does sometimes digitize books; however, these often come at a price, for a lot of books are destroyed during scanning when their binding has to be removed.


Digital Version #5: American Playhouse (1985)

This adaptation, perhaps one of the darkest versions of Huckleberry Finn, includes a lynching scene only alluded to in Twain’s narrative.  The film seems to focus on capturing the dark and dangerous antebellum atmosphere.  Having made an agreement with the National Endowment for the Humanities to maintain fidelity with Twain’s text, American Playhouse decided to retain racist epithets.  The director, Peter Hunt, attempted to go beyond the confines of the pages in order to unveil the truth of the times, declaring that fidelity and authenticity are synonymous, and that the gauges we use to determine authenticity extend beyond the text itself.

Being a movie, this version of Huckleberry Finn has a much a greater ease of access than the Charles L. Webster edition.


Blog Post #3: H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds

The venerable group that’s taking on H.G. Wells’ science-fiction masterpiece War of the Worlds is none other than myself (jamescassar), Eric (ericweitzner), Ally (allyouellette), and Yura (yurakim). Our project will be available over at (eventually).

Check out our collection of texts, both visual and digital, after the jump!
Continue reading Blog Post #3: H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds

The project plan/schedule/contract

I’ve added description of the group project plan to our assignments page.

The plan should be a collaborative document your group works on together. During the initial writing process, you might used a shared Google Document, but eventually, this plan will be posted to your group’s WordPress site. The document should have five basic components:

    • A mission statement. Articulate your group’s purpose in pursuing this digital project (beyond fulfilling the course requirement). What do you imagine as a user group/readership for your project? How would it add to a beginning reader/researcher’s knowledge on the topic? What do you as a group hope to learn as you pursue the project?
    • Existing resources/”competition”, both digital and traditional. What resources do readers have to better understand the text in question now? What do they offer already, and how can what you offer be different? Which versions of the text are available to readers online? What has your group discovered about print resources for exploring the text in question?
    • Group organization plan. How will your group make decisions? How will you manage tasks? If you are dividing responsibilities, how are you dividing them? What does the group expect of each of its members?
    • Tools. Discussion of the digital tools your group will use as you pursue the project. What tools would you use in an ideal world? How much will you need to learn? Why are the tools you’ve chosen the right ones for your project?
    • Detailed plan and timeline. What components will the site include? What do you expect each component to look like? What will be the process for completing each component? What are the milestones toward completion your group is setting for itself? If the group is unable to complete the initial plan fully, which aspects of the site will be enough to represent a finished project of which the group can be proud?

An Online Home for Your Group

Your project groups are in the process of selecting texts to focus on for the project, and in class, we’ll take a look at some projects that students in a similar class at another institution completed.

Beyond picking a text you think you’d like to work on, I’d like the groups to begin pursuing two other tasks for the week ahead.

First, establish an online presence for your group distinct from our class home page. I encourage you to use WordPress for this. We’ll link to your group’s page from the home page. You can do this in a few ways, each of which has some advantages/disadvantages:

    • Use Collab. As a member of the UVA community, you can create a Collab site to which each member of your group belongs. If you enable the WordPress tool, it will establish a WordPress site for the group. I used to do this for all my classes, but I wanted a bit more control, so now I host my own WordPress sites. This is dead simple, though, except for some minor complications with how you set user roles. You can read about this tool here.
    • Use It’s easy to set up a blog on, and it gives you a fair amount of free space. You give up some customizability (you need to pay, for example, for access to CSS), but it’s a nice implementation of WordPress that will let you create a decent WordPress site.
    • Host a WordPress site yourself. If you have a domain name/web space, or if the group wants to pool resources to buy web space, this is also an option. This gives you the most control, but it’s a bit more complicated (and costs money).

Once your group has a site up, begin customizing it. Work on an initial post describing what the work is thinking about doing, and post a link to your project’s online home from the course blog.

The other project-oriented task I’d like the group to begin working on now involves “the competition.” Do some online research to figure out what’s out there about your text(s)/topic already, from Wikipedia pages, to other online resources, to Gutenberg/Google Books texts, etc. Begin collecting examples of what else is out there. In the next weeks, we’ll think about what your project will have to contribute that these other resources don’t.

Picking a Book for the Group Project

At the end of class today, I gave you the difficult task of picking a single book from before 1923 on which to focus your group project. This will be a challenge for your group, that is likely to involve negotiation, productive disagreement, and managing of each group member’s tastes and preferences.

If you’re at a loss, you might flip through the Tables of Contents of the Norton Anthology of English Literature or the Norton Anthology of American Literature, which might help you think of more possibilities. You are welcome to work on novels, plays, poems, or non-fiction texts–but I’d like you to start your investigations with a specific edition of that book. If, for example, your group wanted to work on one of Shakespeare’s plays, think about the edition of that play you wanted to begin your explorations with.  If you’re really into an Emily Dickinson poem, you might figure out when/how that poem was first published.

I am sincere in my desire for you to choose any book that your group shares an interest in. Keep in mind that various members of the group are likely to be happy with different levels of difficulty, subject matter, etc.

If asked to name a bunch of books I’m interested in from before 1923 (and with dates quickly checked using Wikipedia), I’d say:

    • William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Lyrical Ballads (1798)
    • Alexander Pope, The Rape of the Lock (1712)
    • Lewis Carroll/Charles Dodgson, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There
    • Emily Dickinson, Poems (1890)
    • Robert Browning, Dramatic Lyrics (1842)
    • Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice (1813) (and lots of others)
    • Alfred Lord Tennyson, In Memoriam A.H.H. (1849)
    • Mary Shelley, Frankenstein (1818)
    • Gertrude Stein, Tender Buttons (1914) or Three Lives (1909)
    • J.M. Barrie, Peter and Wendy (play 1904, novel 1911)
    • Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass (first edition, 1855)
    • Mark Twain, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876)
    • Twain, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884)
    • Harriett Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852)
    • Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol (1843) (and lots of others)
    • Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, A Study in Scarlet (1887) (and lots of other Sherlock Holmes stories, most of which, but not all of which, are pre-1923)
    • Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Sonnets from the Portuguese (1850)
    • Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890)
    • Edward Lear, A Book of Nonsense (1846)
    • Robert Louis Stevenson, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886)
    • H.G. Wells, The Time Machine (1895)
    • Ambrose Bierce, The Cynic’s Word-Book (later, The Devil’s Dictionary) (1906)
    • G.K. Chesterton, The Man Who Was Thursday (1908)
    • Kate Chopin, The Awakening (1899)
    • Rudyard Kipling, The Jungle Book (1894)
    • Edgar Lee Masters, Spoon River Anthology (1915)
    • T.S. Eliot, Prufrock and Other Observations (1917)
    • Henry James, Turn of the Screw (1898)
    • Charles Chestnutt, The Conjure Woman (1899)
    • James Weldon Johnson, The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man (1912)
    • W.E.B. Dubois, The Souls of Black Folk (1903)
    • Louisa May Alcott, Little Women (1868)
    • Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, The Song of Hiawatha (1855)
    • Upton Sinclair, The Jungle (1906)
    • Henry David Thoreau, Walden (1854)
    • Harriett Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (1861)
    • Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter (1850)
    • Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre (1847)
    • Olaudah Equiano, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African (1789)
    • Herman Melville, Moby Dick (1851) or Benito Cereno (1855)

But this could go on and on. We read a couple stories about vast bodies of information, space, and time today. “Literature before 1923” also represents a vastness, and I know that it will be a challenge to settle on one work as a group.  But hopefully these lists and the Norton Tables of Contents help you get started.