Lifestyle & Belief

A century on, library lifts ban on Twain book

It's Banned Books Week, and to celebrate, a Massachusetts public library has added to its selection a Mark Twain book that has been off limits for more than a century.

The problem was not so much the story itself, but the accompanying nude illustrations in Eve's Diary, which Reuters says was “plucked from the shelf within hours” of being readmitted.

The ban on Twain's satirical version of the Adam and Eve story had been in place since 1906, but trustees of the Charlton Public Library, in central Massachusetts, chose to lift it, stocking two paperback copies.

Cheryl Hansen, the library's director, told Reuters that a library trustee had learned about the ban from a local newspaper article.

So, last year he tracked down a first edition of the book, which will be on display throughout the week.

The book was apparently banned when one of the library's trustees, Frank Whitefield, objected to the illustrations of a naked Eve, drawn by Lester Ralph.

According to the Christian Science Monitor, a 1906 article on the ban reads:

After looking long and earnestly at one picture depicting Eve pensively reclining on a rock, Mr. Wakefield decided to act.

But Hansen says the images are “not what we would consider inflammatory at all”, adding she is surprised that there was ever an objection to them.

And it seems that Twain agreed. In 1907, in a letter to a friend, Mrs. F. G. Whitmore, Twain said the ban seemed ridiculous, and he referred to the trustees as “the freaks of the Charlton Library.”