Mark Twain's 1835 Martin Guitar Valued at Over $15 million

- Press Release

The pioneering American spirit
has always romanticized the traveling singer, the wandering poet, and the
musician whose home is the road. It is a lesser known fact that Mark Twain,
long before the quieter years of white hair and linen suits, was one of the
original bohemians of this land. Like his archetypically American protagonist
Huck Finn, Twain traveled far and often, accompanied only by ink, paper, and
an 1835 Martin guitar. Though his writings are invaluable, Twain's Martin is
definitively valued at over $15 million.

The guitar was acquired by world-renowned guitar collector Hank Risan in
the mid-nineties. Part of the John Hancock III guitar collection, Risan
purchased the instrument replete with its original coffin case and an
authentic shipping label dated 1866. "It's one of the best-sounding guitars
I've ever played. It still retains its original finish and everything is
original to the guitar, except the bridge, which was made in 1850 or 1860.
The guitar has a great provenance," Hank Risan explained to Noah Adams on
NPR's Lost and Found Sound.

Risan worked closely with the Mark Twain Project at UC Berkeley in
authentication of the instrument, along with a team of forensic experts and
the Bureau of Engraving. In researching Twain's original journal entries for
evidence of his musical history, Risan stumbled upon an unpublished Twain poem
titled "Genius." After editing, publishing, and reading the poem on NPR's
"All Things Considered," Risan established the online exhibition "The Private
Life of Mark Twain" at the Museum of Modern Instruments (MoMI). Both the
guitar and poem are showcased and have attracted 25 million online visitors.
Twain purchased the rosewood Martin guitar in 1861, the dawn of the Civil War,
for ten dollars. He was known to entertain friends and fellow travelers on his
numerous tours of the American West and sojourns across the Atlantic. In
Acoustic Guitar magazine, author Bianca Soros writes about the man and the
guitar: "Twain played his Martin frequently -- for the newspaper men of the
Nevada Territories, the miners of California's Gold Rush, passengers aboard
the clipper ship Ajax bound for the Hawaiian Islands, and the willing women of
the West."

NPR interviewer Noah Adams stated in NPR'S Lost and Found Sound: "History
can even draw a line that would connect Mark Twain the folk-singer with Jack
Kerouac and Bob Dylan."

The experience of authenticating this iconic piece of American history and
Twain's bohemian early life inspired Risan and screenwriter Lauren Tollefsrud
to pen a major motion picture screenplay entitled Mark Twain and The Eye Of
God, loosely based on an idea developed by Risan and Soros.
By Lauren Tollefsrud


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