‘Tom and Huck are leaving home’ | NevadaAppeal.com

‘Tom and Huck are leaving home’

Teri Vancetvance@nevadaappeal.com
Photos by Cathleen Allison / Nevada Photo SourceGerald Bartholomew talks about donating his personal collection of more than 1,100 Mark Twain-related items to the Carson City Library. Bartholomew has been collecting the books and other memorabilia since the late 1960s.
Cathleen Allison | Nevada Photo Source

What Gerald Bartholomew calls an “accidental discovery” in the late 1960s grew during the years to a collection of more than 1,100 books and other Mark Twain-related items.“When my grandparents remodeled, I found a 20-volume set of the works of Mark Twain in the basement,” he recalled. “But there were four or five volumes missing. That set off a quest to find them. More than 40 years later, I’ve found those plus 400 or 500 more books. It’s just one of those serendipity things.”Although it took nearly a lifetime to amass the articles, he’s now letting them go in a donation to the Carson City Library.“I’d rather keep it together and have it available for scholars and students, whoever wants to see it,” said Bartholomew, 65, a medical technician at Carson Tahoe Health. “I can’t really use them. I’ve read them all already.”He said Carson City is the perfect place for the display. Twain was born Samuel Clemens in Missouri in 1835. He and eldest brother Orion came to Carson City in 1861 to join Gov. James Nye in forming a government for the newly created Nevada Territory.Although he wrote for the Territorial Enterprise in Virginia City, Twain spent a great deal of time in Carson City covering the Legislature and visiting his brother. A telegraph sent from Carson City is his first known use of the moniker “Mark Twain.”“Samuel Clemens wasn’t born here, but Mark Twain was,” Bartholomew said.Library Director Sara Jones envisions the collection as the featured display in the history room of the proposed Knowledge + Discovery Center to replace the current library. “Twain ultimately became one of America’s best-loved authors,” she said. “And Carson City’s connection to this iconic American author would be a perfect literary centerpiece for a public library.”The 4,000-square-foot history room would open up to a patio with a view of the Capitol, Jones said. She said the collection would be a permanent display, with some items available for checkout, some to be handled in the library and others encased in glass.“We really see it as a cornerstone to highlight our heritage and really get people excited,” Jones said.She said the current library is too small to display the collection. If voters do not approve plans for a new library in November, Jones said, some items will be on display, while the rest remain in storage.Bartholomew said he recognized the significance of the volumes in his grandmother’s basement after taking a college course on Twain. “Everybody knows ‘Tom Sawyer’ and ‘Huckleberry Finn,’” he said. “But he wrote more than 100 books.”The collection ranges from the relatively common movies and writings to more rare pieces, such as an 1872 copy of “Roughing It,” an 1882 copy of “The Prince and the Pauper” and an 1869 copy of “Innocents Abroad.”In a letter of support for the grant to facilitate the donation, former state archivist Guy Rocha stressed the importance of preserving Twain’s legacy.“As with much of Nevada history, it is often surrounded by myth and lore and Mark Twain has more than his fair share of this,” Rocha wrote. “So I believe what is important about this collection being housed in the newly planned Knowledge and Discovery Center as a distinct special collection is that it should invigorate and inspire young and old to read Twain and reacquaint themselves with his real literary works.”Bartholomew agrees. But it will be hard to part with them.“Tom and Huck are leaving home,” he said. “It’ll be tough. I’ll be over here in a sleeping bag.”Mark Twain is ‘born’A telegraph dispatch from Carson City to the Territorial Enterprise in Virginia City on Feb. 3, 1863, is the first known appearance of Mark Twain, pen name of Samuel Clemens.“On Wednesday, I sat up all night, in Virginia, in order to be up early enough to take the five o’clock stage on Thursday morning. I was on time. It was a great success. I had a cheerful trip down to Carson…” Yours, dreamily, MARK TWAIN— Reprinted in The Works of Mark Twain; Early Tales & Sketches, Vol. 1 1851-1864, (Univ. of California Press)