February 13 – Anniversary of a Missing Manuscript Found!

Posted on February 13, 2014

Actually, it was only half of a manuscript that went missing and was found. But it's still a big deal, because the half-manuscript was The Adventures of Huckleberry

And it was the original manuscript, written and heavily edited by author Mark Twain himself, in his own handwriting!

And it even had some scenes and pages that had never been published before!

And it was missing for more than a century!

How does half an original manuscript or such value go missing for more than 100 years? Well, apparently lawyer James Fraser Gluck asked Twain to donate the manuscript to the Buffalo and Erie County Library, but Twain could only find one half of the manuscript. He assumed the other half had been misplaced by the publishers, so in 1885 he mailed the half that he had to Gluck, and it was donated and exhibited in the library. Two years later Twain found the first half and mailed it, as well, to Gluck.

Something—we don't know what—happened at this point. Perhaps Gluck was taking the pages to be bound in the same leather that the other half had been bound in. At any rate, Gluck put the missing-for-two-years first half of Huckleberry Finn into one of his trunks—and then he died unexpectedly. And of course nobody knew where the half-manuscript was, and it went missing AGAIN—this time for a lot more than two years!

Eventually, about 103 years later, Gluck's granddaughter, Barbara Gluck Testa, opened up some trunks that had belonged to her long-deceased grandpa, and she found the manuscript pages. Can you imagine the thrill she must've felt?

Testa sent it to Sotheby's to make sure the pages were the “real deal,” as a preparation to selling them. Sotheby's estimated their value at $1.5 million, but after they announced the discovery on this date in 1991, people from the Buffalo Library came forward with their claim of ownership. There was a court hearing to determine who owned the long-lost pages. It was decided that Testa would give the pages to the library—so that they could be enjoyed by all—but that she was awarded a six-figure finder's fee. (Which means that she was paid at least $100,000 for the pages—and maybe a lot more. But remember, it was worth a million dollars more than $500,000!!!)

I think this was a win-win. The two halves of the manuscript were finally reunited, Testa got a thrill and a nice chunk of change, the library got a precious artifact, and Mark Twain's intentions were finally fulfilled!

Also on this date:

Naturalist Joseph Banks's birthday

Anniversary of the Treaty of Lisbon

Artist Grant Wood's birthday 

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