Robert H. Hirst, Ph.D. is the General Editor and Official Curator of the Mark Twain Project and Papers, housed at the University of California, Berkeley. He is also the editor of Who Is Mark Twain? (HarperStudio), a collection of 24 wickedly funny, thought provoking essays and stories by Twain, none of which have ever been published before -- and all of which are steeped in contemporary relevance and humor. As 2010 marks the 100th anniversary of Twain's death, Who Is Mark Twain? kicks off a year of celebrations for one of America's most beloved literary icons. As the consummate Twain expert, Hirst is the perfect speaker for literary festivals, libraries, universities, historical societies, and other special events where he can truly bring Twain to life.
The Mark Twain Project, a vast archive of the Twain's personal manuscripts, letters, and documents which came to the Berkeley library in 1949, set out in 1980 to produce a comprehensive scholarly edition of all Mark Twain's writings estimated at 75 or 80 large volumes that were to include Mark Twain's 50 notebooks, more than 11,000 letters, eight file-feet of autobiogaphy, hundreds of unpublished literary manuscripts, as well as critical, fully ann¬tated editions of his 12 large books, thousands of magazine articles and stories, not to mention his uncollected newspaper journalism. Twenty-seven volumes of The Mark Twain Papers and Works of Mark Twainhave been published by the University of California Press, which has also published nine volumes in The Mark Twain Library, a popular readers' edition derived from the Papers and Works.
Hirst began his relationship with the Mark Twain Papers in 1967. He collaborated with Edgar M. Branch on several volumes of Mark Twain's Early Tales & Sketches. Since 1980 Hirst has been General Editor of the Mark Twain Project, so-called because it embraced two ongoing editions: the Mark Twain Papers in Berkeley and Works of Mark Twain (begun at Iowa City). Under his leadership, more than 20 volumes have since appeared, with many more still in the pipeline. The most recent volume of Papers and Works has been described as "an unmatched and probably unsurpassable pinnacle of editorial achievement... arguably the single greatest product of modern American editorial scholarship." Hirst is also the Official Curator of the Papers and has continuously added to the collection through both gifts and purchases. Since 1996, he has taught one course a year in the Berkeley English Department, where he is an adjunct professor.
Born in New York City and raised in Hastings-on-Hudson, N.Y., Hirst is a graduate of Harvard with an M.A. and Ph.D. in American Literature from University of California Berkeley. He has been working on Mark Twain's work for 42 years, but contrary to recent reports, this long commitment has not caused him to begin to resemble his author, at least not to anyone but very near-sighted persons. Hirst also claims never to have been the least bit bored with his chosen subject: "If you're bored with Mark Twain," says Hirst, "you either have no sense of humor, or you haven't been paying attention."
Hirst continues to live and work in Berkeley, CA.