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Mark Twain Papers and Project : Research help

Preeminent center for the preservation of Twain’s writing, memory, and legacy

Research help


Our resources for research include both physical and virtual materials. The physical archive includes Clemens’s papers and correspondence; first editions of Mark Twain’s publications and selected reprints; Mark Twain's personal library; and pictures.

Virtual resources may be found at Mark Twain Project Online, where their scope is described. Our Publications page lists texts edited from the Papers and other repositories’ holdings, as well as microfilm of our manuscripts.

The MTP does not have a reference librarian who can assist with school projects or general questions.  

Primary sources

Primary materials range widely:

  • Separate folders filed chronologically of all known letters by Clemens or his immediate family, and all known letters to or about Clemens and his immediate family. Uncorrected typed transcriptions of the former may also be consulted in person.
  • Forty-six notebooks kept by Clemens between 1855 and 1910, and typescripts prepared by Project staff. (One additional notebook is part of Manuscript Collection MS-0809, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas, Austin; another is in Samuel L. Clemens Papers at Vassar College; and two are part of YCAL MSS 852 in Yale University’s Beinecke Library.)
  • Both published and unpublished literary manuscripts, together with related drafts, typescripts, or proofs, as well as the published and unpublished portions of Clemens’s sprawling autobiography.
  • Contemporary documents that belonged to Clemens himself, including mining deeds, book contracts, and financial records, as well as countless photocopies gleaned from contemporary newspaper reporting on Clemens and his associates.
  • More than three dozen scrapbooks, some of which are Clemens's own patented design, which contain miscellaneous clippings and documents saved by Clemens or his family.

Library holdings

The Project maintains an extensive working library of Mark Twain's books in various editions, contemporary and foreign language reprints, and related monographs. These books are cataloged on UC Library Search. Choose “Mark Twain Papers” as the search location.

About 150 books from Mark Twain's home library are also cataloged on UC Library Search. A printed inventory of the titles is available. In addition, photocopies of marginalia from books owned by other institutions and private collectors are filed in the Papers; as time permits, these are cataloged on LibraryThing.


The Project's pictorial collection contains over 2,000 items. Visitors to the archive may research this collection (mainly photographs, but also including cased miniatures, drawings, caricatures, and engravings) through several albums of viewing prints, arranged chronologically and organized by subject: (1) Clemens; (2) the Clemens family; (3) photographs taken by Clemens's youngest daughter, Jean, between 1900 and 1905; (4) photographs taken by Clemens's secretary, Isabel V. Lyon, between 1904 and 1908; and (5) photographs of people and places associated with Clemens, arranged alphabetically.

Our collection of cased photographs and miniatures may be viewed at Online Archive of California, along with full descriptive notes.

Image: Mark Twain and Helen Keller. Photographer: Isabel V. Lyon. Date: 8 January 1909. [Mark Twain Papers, PH02066]


The Mark Twain Papers offers several kinds of access to signature non-circulating materials.

If you have research questions about items in our physical collection, please consider visiting our reading room, upstairs from The Bancroft Library’s reading room.

The catalog of all letters known to us which have been sent from or to Samuel Clemens’s household — regardless of their current owner — is part of MTPO also includes a growing selection of our edited volumes of Clemens’s letters and writings, images from our collection, and research resources. The site is produced by Project staff and the staff of UC Berkeley’s Library IT Office.
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Subject to curatorial review and intellectual property issues, we may provide digital images of items in our collection for research use or for publication.

The Mark Twain Papers & Project offices are not open to the public for tours. Several exhibitions curated by the editors have been converted for web view.

Image: Mark Twain's signature 


What has been published

Everything Mark Twain wrote for which the Mark Twain Project had even a partial text, as of the end of 2001, has now been published —by Mark Twain himself; by various hands between 1910 and 1962; or by the University of California Press or The Bancroft Library between 1962 and the end of 2002. These texts have been published either in printed volumes or in one of three microfilm editions issued by The Bancroft Library in December 2001. Some works have also been published or reprinted in this period by other publishers under license from the University of California Press.

What is protected and what is in the public domain

What Mark Twain himself published, or anything of his that others published posthumously before the year 1927, is in the public domain and may be quoted or reproduced in its entirety without permission. Mark Twain writings of any kind, whether literary manuscripts, notebooks, marginalia, or letters which came to light after 2001, and which were not published in the microfilm editions or elsewhere before the end of 2002, are likewise in the public domain. But work by Mark Twain published after 1923 and before the end of 2002 may well be protected by copyright.  

Guidelines for “Fair Use”

Under “fair use,” quotation from any published work still under copyright is permitted without obtaining the copyright holder’s permission. But re-publication or reprinting of any whole work (letter, notebook, essay, etc.) so protected, or any substantial portion of such a work, requires the permission of the copyright holder. Generally speaking, if publication occurred in 1962 or later, permission must be obtained from the General Editor of the Mark Twain Project and the University of California Press. If publication occurred between 1923 and 1961, permission must be obtained from the Mark Twain Foundation.

Responsibilities of those seeking use permissions

It is the responsibility of anyone seeking permission to republish protected text (a) to determine the specific source of the words to be quoted and (b) to quote them with reasonable accuracy. Mark Twain Project staff can offer limited assistance to confirm the copyright status of particular letters or works and, for materials published in the microfilm editions, we will provide specific microfilm reel numbers for the purpose of citation. For all questions of copyright it is often wise and sometimes necessary to consult an attorney versed in copyright law. The editorial staff of the Project are not themselves copyright experts.

How to obtain copyright permissions

All valid copyrights on Mark Twain’s words are held by Richard A. Watson and JPMorgan Chase Bank as trustees of the Mark Twain Foundation, which reserves all reproduction or dramatization rights in every medium. To write to the Mark Twain Foundation, address your request to:

Richard A. Watson
Mark Twain Foundation
Chamberlain, Willi, Ouchterloney, & Watson
494 Eighth Avenue, 7th Floor
New York, NY  10001

Copyright on all editorial transcriptions, reconstructions, decipherings, introductions, textual and explanatory notes, identifications of correspondents, places, and dates, in print or microfilm editions produced by the Mark Twain Project, is held by the Regents of the University of California. To write to the University of California Press, address your request to:

Kim Robinson
Editorial Director
University of California Press
155 Grand Avenue, Suite 400
Oakland, CA 94612-3758


Freely available photos related to Samuel Clemens can be found in the New York Public Library Digital Collections and Wikimedia Commons.

Helpful websites

Most general questions about Mark Twain, his writings, the source or authenticity of quotations, etc., can be answered by consulting Mark Twain Project publications or standard reference books at a local library. MTP staff also recommend the following sites:

Mark Twain Forum — a moderated internet discussion group for those with an interest in the life and works of Mark Twain. The forum site includes subscription information and links to book reviews.

Mark Twain in His Times — edited by Stephen Railton, University of Virginia.

Mark Twain quotations, newspaper collections, and web resources — a highly reliable and comprehensive source of quotations and texts built by Barbara Schmidt.