Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Selling Huck Finn

A green book cover for Huckleberry Finn, stamped in gold and black.It sure looks like Huck Finn, but it's not. A closer inspection of this rather slim volume of the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn reveals that it is not all there. No, it is not an expurgated edition designed to satisfy censorious school boards, but a sample volume used by book sellers to market the first edition.

In the 19th century, many rural areas did not have book stores. At that time, the traveling book seller was still a major component of the book distribution network in the United States. This salesman's sample book featured the gold stamped publisher's binding, the table of contents, a list of illustrations and enough text to get a feel for the novel. Emphasis was placed on the physical qualities of the book and nearly all of the sample pages are illustrated. Two alternate de-luxe bindings are also displayed. At the end are eight pages of blank ruled paper for orders. This copy, which we recently acquired, has 12 signatures representing orders from the town of Edinburg (perhaps Indiana). None opted for the more expensive bindings.  Take a look by asking for Rare PS1305 .A3 1885.

Two book spines for Huckleberry Finn.
Bindings options

A page of ruled paper with handwritten entries.

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