The Innocents Abroad

Mark Twain

Illustrated by James Albon

Introduced by Paul Theroux

Mark Twain’s classic travelogue The Innocents Abroad firmly established him as a writer and humourist of dazzling perspicacity. This Folio Society edition is newly introduced by Paul Theroux and lavishly illustrated by James Albon.

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‘The father of American literature.’
  1. William Faulkner

Largely remembered for his novels, Mark Twain achieved his greatest literary success within his lifetime with The Innocents Abroad. When the fledgling journalist boarded the steamship Quaker City in 1867, it was the dawn of the age of tourism, and his acutely observed and humorous account of the five-month grand tour of Europe, Egypt and the Holy Land captivated readers … as it still does today. From Tangier to Versailles, Odessa, the Dead Sea and the Pyramids of Egypt, Twain’s acerbic reporting leaves no person or place off-limits. There are attempts to speak French to the French; fear at the hands of demon barbers; overzealous tour guides; and large doses of religious fervour. But above all, there are Twain’s mesmerising descriptions of both the overarching beauty of the Old World and its pockets of desperate poverty.

Award-winning illustrator James Albon has captured the eccentricities of the travellers and the myriad locations in a set of stylish colour and black-and-white lino-cuts that echo Twain’s sardonic and eagle-eyed prose, while the striking map endpapers chart the highlights of this fascinating voyage. For the newly commissioned introduction, celebrated travel writer Paul Theroux shares his admiration for Twain, particularly his desire to look beyond clichéd experiences and portray the gritty realism of epic travel. 

Bound in printed and blocked cloth

Set in Abril Text with Victoriana as display

592 pages

7 full-page colour illustrations, 11 black & white integrated illustrations

Printed map endpapers

Plain slipcase

10˝ x 6¾˝

Twain’s prose is rich and expressive, drawing the reader into the minutiae of his trip, the quirks of his fellow travellers and the people he meets abroad. The narrative proved the perfect stimulus for illustrator James Albon, whose nostalgic style and comic-book influences bring the characters alive, while his considered choice of palette pinpoints the era. Seven colour, and a further eleven integrated black-and-white illustrations, illuminate this trip, and Albon’s work continues on the printed map endpapers and gold-blocked binding design. In his newly commissioned introduction, Paul Theroux writes that Twain: ‘... prefers to turn the traditional travel book form on its head, debunking it with gratuitous foolery’. This superb edition embodies Twain’s ‘gratuitous foolery’, ensuring his remarkable observations are preserved for generations to come. 

‘Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts.’

The Grand Tour was on the cusp of becoming a rite of passage for wealthy Americans when Mark Twain booked his place aboard the Quaker City steamship for a five-month ‘picnic on a gigantic scale’. Funded by posting regular articles to the Alta California newspaper, Twain set sail from New York in September 1867, taking in a long list of cultural and historical must-sees. The Innocents Abroad is a delightful blend of social commentary and satire: Twain’s acerbic reporting leaves no person or place off-limits, with a generous word count reserved for lambasting the tourists themselves. 

Mark Twain is the nom de plume of Samuel Langhorne Clemens (1835–1910), one of the greatest American writers of the nineteenth century and named the ‘father of American literature’ by William Faulkner. Best known today for fiction including The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Twain was also a journalist, satirist and travel writer. He grew up in Hannibal, Missouri and later lived an itinerant life – including periods as a miner in Nevada and a journalist in San Francisco – before settling in Connecticut and New York. In later life he was in huge demand as a humorous speaker and lecturer. Twain’s boyhood recollections were published as Life on the Mississippi and the account of his journey to the West as Roughing It. Like his fiction, much of Twain’s travel writing is bitingly funny and offers a sharp critique of contemporary society.

Paul Theroux is an American novelist and travel writer (‘The world’s most perceptive travel writer’ Daily Mail) who is the author of many highly acclaimed works of fiction and nonfiction, including The Great Railway Bazaar (1975; Folio 2013), The Old Patagonian Express (1979; Folio 2023), The Mosquito Coast (1981) Riding the Iron Rooster (1983), and Mr Bones: Twenty Stories (2014). In 2015, he was awarded a Royal Medal from the Royal Geographical Society for ‘the encouragement of geographical discovery through travel writing’. This award, approved by the Queen, is the highest award attainable for a traveller, and Theroux joins the ranks of recipients including Sir Edmund Hillary, Admiral Richard Byrd and Dr Thor Heyerdahl. His other awards include the American Academy and Institute of Arts & Letters Award for literature; the Whitbread Prize for his novel, Picture Palace; and the James Tait Black Award for The Mosquito Coast. His travelogue, The Old Patagonian Express: By Train through the Americas, and The Mosquito Coast were both nominated for the American Book Award.

James Albon studied Illustration at Edinburgh College of Art, and went on to a postgraduate scholarship at the Royal Drawing School in London. He received the Gwen May Award from the Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers in 2012. He illustrated Parade’s End for The Folio Society in 2013, The Blue Flower in 2015, and Of Mice and Men in 2018.


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