Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Selling It - American Style

A blue cover for "The Wrong Box."
The Wrong Box by Robert Louis Stevenson and his stepson Lloyd Osbourne is a black comedy first published in 1889.  The novel relates the tale of the last two members of a tontine and the efforts of one of these survivors to kill off the other and thus claim the prize pool. Various mishaps ensue.  A corpse believed to be one of the tontine members killed in a railway accident is mistakenly shipped off to another character who is expecting a statue of Hercules. Most everything works out in the end. However, it wasn't the off-kilter humor that tickled our fancy.

A red cover for "The Wrong Box."
Rauner holds both the first British edition and the first American edition.  Both were published in 1889, but the presentation of the novel is markedly different for the two intended audiences.  The British edition features a rather bland red cover with just the title and the authors' names.  Charles Scribner, the American publisher, obviously thought that something more was needed to attract a potential buyer.  The American cover (above) features an eye-catching newspaper fragment impressed into the cover.  The tantalizingly torn advertisement is for one William Bent Pitman - the character who is shipped the wrong, corpse-filled box.

Ask for Val 826 St5 Y9 (1st American) and Val 826 St5 Y91 (1st British) to compare the two editions.

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