Friday, August 5, 2016

Getting to the South Pole on the Installment Plan

By 1912, selling books in parts was pretty much a thing of the past (think Dickens in the 1850s). If you wanted to serialize a book, mass-market magazines were the best avenue for distribution. But serialization offered a pay-as-you-go option many people were still willing to take advantage of, for the right book.

Sold for half a krone (roughly a dime in U.S. currency in 1912), the the forty individual parts of Roald Amundsen's Sydpolen would run a reader twenty kroner spread out over time. That would have been a hefty price to pay, but the budget plan enabled by selling the book in parts could put it in reach of poorer Norwegians anxious to celebrate their national hero.

The structure of the serialization is rather odd. Instead of ending each part with a chapter conclusion, these parts break strictly at 25 pages, usually mid-sentence. A reader would have to wait for the object or verb to appear a week later! Talk about a cliffhanger.

The set contains over 400 original illustrations, and the wrappers feature a photograph framed by penguins. Unlike Nansen's Farthest North, these parts contain no advertisements. They are simply the book and images.

Our set has the original prospectus as well. It promotes the illustrations and lays out schedule of publication, the payment plan, and the bonus binding for those who subscribe.

To see it, ask for Stef G850 1910 .A52 1912.

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