Mark Twain and a mysterious penis
Huckleberry Finn was probably the first book that influenced my love of literature. I had always been an avid reader, but up until the 3rd grade, my private reading largely consisted of Nancy Drew novels. Then at the beginning of grade four, the teacher brought in a book collection and told each student to choose one for an independent reading project. I had recently had a spat with my teacher about a particularly terrible book that I didn't want to read (and so enlisted my mother, an extremely conservative Christian, to get me excused from reading it because, I said, my sensitive disposition couldn't stomach the number of times the young narrator "took the lord's name in vain"), and wanted to prove that my decision had been influenced by my keen literary taste rather than a distaste for reading in general. So I picked the fattest novel off the shelf: Huckleberry Finn. I appreciate, now, the irony of choosing the fourth most banned book (in US schools) to follow up my stunt, but there you have it. It sparked in me a passion for dead English authors that finally pulled me away from Nancy and her friends.
This weekend, I learned that the first edition of Huck Finn was derailed when it was discovered that someone along the production process crudely drew in a penis on an illustration of Uncle Silas. The book was scheduled to be released before Christmas of 1884, but when the illustration was discovered after 33000 copies had already been printed, most of the scandalous copies were hunted down to be fixed or destroyed. The book was not re-released until the following February. Fortunately, the scandal proved beneficial, as the news story helped to fuel sales. The "obscene" first editions of the book are now so rare that they are worth more than most things I own.
Though the culprit has never been identified, the Mental Floss blog traces the production process to suggest who may have had reason to pull such a prank.