Never-Before-Seen Illustrations for Upcoming Mark Twain Children's Story

A scholar found the unfinished handwritten pages by Mark Twain at UC Berkeley.

ByKELLY MCCARTHY
January 25, 2017, 8:36 AM
PHOTO: Random House Children's Book  will release  "The Purloining of Prince Oleomargarine"  in September 2017, a never before published by Mark Twain.
Random House Children's Book will release "The Purloining of Prince Oleomargarine" in September 2017, a never before published by Mark Twain.
Erin Stead

— -- Deep in the literary archives at the University of California at Berkeley, a visiting scholar made an amazing discovery inside a journal that belonged to one of America’s greatest authors, Mark Twain.

John Bird was conducting his own personal research when he came across 16 pages of unfettered text that had been handwritten by Twain himself.

What he found was a partial story that Twain jotted down after he told his two daughters a fairy tale one night while the family was in Paris in 1879.

The humorous and playful style, so unmistakably Twain, detailed a young boy's wild adventure to save a prince.

Never having seen anything like it from the author, Bird immediately recognized the significance and authenticity of the untold story notes and took it to Cindy Lovell, then the executive director at the Mark Twain House and Museum.

From there Frances Gilbert, the Associate Publishing Director at Random House Children’s Books, acquired and edited the never-before-published Twain children’s story.

Doubleday Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Random House, enlisted the successful husband, wife author-and-illustrator team of Philip and Erin Stead to reinvigorate the unfinished fairy tale.

PHOTO: Erin Stead's illustrations that will appear in the never-been-published Mark Twain story "The Purloining of Prince Oleomargarine."
Erin Stead's illustrations that will appear in the never-been-published Mark Twain story "The Purloining of Prince Oleomargarine."
Erin Stead

Like many great authors whose castoff gems were discovered years after their passing, Twain’s pages will transform from partial text to full manuscript and be given new life.

The story, called "The Purloining of Prince Olemargarine," follows a young boy who eats the flower sprouted by a magical seed and gains the ability to talk to animals.

PHOTO: Erin Stead's illustrations that will appear in the never-been-published Mark Twain story "The Purloining of Prince Oleomargarine."
Erin Stead's illustrations that will appear in the never-been-published Mark Twain story "The Purloining of Prince Oleomargarine."
Erin Stead

While Twain told his young girls numerous bedtime stories that he spun together on the spot, these notes are believed to be the only ones he ever wrote down.

"To publish a new Twain story is an incredible literary event," explained Gilbert. "When I first got the chance to read this unpublished Twain story, I couldn't believe what I was holding," she said.

The Steads said they quickly agreed to take on the potentially daunting task of finishing a story by one of the nation’s most revered writers, but the publishers had great faith in the pairs ability.

PHOTO: Erin Stead's illustrations that will appear in the never-been-published Mark Twain story "The Purloining of Prince Oleomargarine."
Erin Stead's illustrations that will appear in the never-been-published Mark Twain story "The Purloining of Prince Oleomargarine."
Erin Stead

"I’ve admired Erin and Philip Stead’s work since their first book and couldn't think of a more ideal match for this project. It's an American dream team," boasted Gilbert.

The duo are one of the most notable names in children's literature and have already completed the text and illustrations for the book. They thoughtfully framed the narrative as a story "told to me by my friend, Mr. Mark Twain," and included the occasional interruption by an imagined meeting over tea between Stead and Twain.

PHOTO: Philip and Erin Stead, the author-illustrator duo who expanded notes left by Samuel Clemens into "The Purloining of Prince Oleomargarine," in New York, Jan. 17, 2017.
Philip and Erin Stead, the author-illustrator duo who expanded notes left by Samuel Clemens into "The Purloining of Prince Oleomargarine," in New York, Jan. 17, 2017.
An Rong Xu/The New York Times

"The Purloining of Prince Olemargarine," is an 11-chapter, 152-page illustrated storybook for all ages set to be published on Sept. 26, 2017, with a 250,000-copy first printing.

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