Massachusetts library lifts 1906 ban on Mark Twain book

Thu Sep 22, 2011 3:42pm EDT
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By Daniel Lovering

CAMBRIDGE, Mass (Reuters) - A Mark Twain book with nude illustrations, added to a Massachusetts public library after a century-old ban was lifted, was plucked from the shelf within hours on Thursday.

Trustees of the Charlton Public Library lifted the 1906 ban earlier this week of "Eve's Diary," Twain's satirical version of the Adam and Eve story, said Cheryl Hansen, the library's director.

Two paperback copies were made available at the library in central Massachusetts on Thursday and, within hours, one of them was in a reader's hands, she said.

"I think there'll be a lot of interest in taking it out," Hansen added, saying the unanimous vote to lift the ban came just in time for Banned Books Week, which begins on Saturday.

A library trustee learned about the ban from a local newspaper article and last year tracked down a first edition of the book, which will be on display through next week, she said.

The book, published in 1906, was banned when the library's then-trustees took issue with illustrations by Lester Ralph that showed Eve naked. Adam appears covered up in the pictures, she said.

"They're not what we would consider inflammatory at all, and I'm even surprised they were considered (inflammatory) then," Hansen said.

But the spare illustrations were controversial enough for the library to ban the book, prompting Twain to write dismissively in a letter the following year that "nobody attaches weight to the freaks of the Charlton Library."

Hansen said she bought two paperback copies of the book, which were listed in the library's catalog on Wednesday and put into circulation on Thursday morning.

(Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Cynthia Johnston)

<p>The cover of Mark Twain's 1906 book "Eve's Diary" is seen in this undated handout photo. REUTERS/Courtesy of Charlton Public Library/Handout</p>