— -- 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.
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.
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 "When I first got the chance to read this unpublished Twain story, I couldn't believe what I was holding," she said.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.
"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.
"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.