The Mark Twain Project

This is a pretty amazing online project presenting the work of Mark Twain. Not just the text of his letters, articles, and books, but scholarly annotation. It’s a work-in-progress, not just because the scholarly work continues, but because Mark Twain was extremely prolific and there is a huge amount of work to post. According to the site, in addition to the many books, pamphlets, speeches, and articles he wrote, Twain is believed to have written over 50,000 letters in his lifetime.

The goal of the site is to “produce a digital critical edition, fully annotated, of everything Mark Twain wrote.” It’s clear how much work has gone into the project, and the attention to detail is impressive.

This is a great example of using the web to document, organize and showcase a rich archive of a writer’s body of work. I think it also shows the limitation of something like Google Books — which of course has amazing potential and is certainly useful from a search perspective but currently lacks scholarly annotation or even basic descriptions and historical/literary context, not to mention its documented metadata problem.

With the Mark Twain Project, though, one huge improvement would be for the site to allow users to export the texts into formats that could easily be imported to the reader of their choice. There are other types of solutions (HTML5, “Books in Browsers“) coming which would make an option like that unnecessary, but as the site is currently built, an export function would be a nice addition to an already feature rich site.