CHARLTON (CBS) – It’s not the words in “Eve’s Diary” that made people blush back in 1906.
It’s the pictures of Eve herself.
“Every other page has an illustration,” explains Richard Whitehead, the Vice Chairman of the Charlton Public Library’s Board of Trustees. “And since it’s Eve’s diary of her early days, she didn’t have any clothes in the pictures.”
WBZ-TV’s Jim Armstrong reports
He’s talking about the little-known Mark Twain’s short story in which the author takes the voice of Adam’s partner in the Garden of Eden. Twain imagines what Eve would have thought and said in her first days on earth.
One hundred five years ago, the drawings that accompanied the diary were too hot to handle for trustees of the Charlton Public Library – so they banned the book altogether.
Said Whitehead: “Here in Charlton, when the library received a shipment of 100 books, this one was picked out as perhaps not appropriate for the library.”
Looking at the pictures with the eyes of someone more than a century ago, Cheryl Hansen, the library’s current director, says she, “Could see where it might have been controversial. Would I ban it in 1906? I don’t know.”
Taking a book off the shelves was a controversial move, even way back at the turn of the last century. The move earned this little library some big national headlines.
“That story got picked up by the New York Times and later carried from San Francisco to Washington, D.C.,” said Whitehead.
It seems the author himself got wind of the ban. According to Director Hansen, “He called us the ‘Charlton Public Library freaks’. And just to be on Mark Twain’s radar, to me, is fantastic.”
One can only wonder what the satirist would have made of the current trustees’ decision to overturn the ban.
Since this is Banned Books Week, the trustees voted unanimously to put the book — along with its drawings — back on the shelf.
“It was a good opportunity for us to highlight Banned Book Week and the freedoms we enjoy,” said Whitehead.
The library’s only circulating copy of “Eve’s Diary” was checked out within hours. Demand for the book is so strong they have ordered two more copies to put into circulation.
Word of the ‘un-banning’ has reached around the globe. Articles describing the story have appeared in Europe, Asia, and throughout the United States.
“We’re getting positive publicity right now. In 1906 it was negative publicity,” said Hansen.