A Book Fair Find Enters the Collection

The Newberry holds two editions of this work in the Edward E. Ayer Collection, as one might expect in a renowned collection on the history and culture of American Indians. But a third copy was recently added to the Newberry’s John M. Wing Foundation on the History of Printing, for its relevance as an artifact of the publishing industry. This copy is a publisher's dummy—an incomplete sample of a forthcoming book, given to traveling salesmen as a way to entice customers to purchase the finished work.

Publisher's dummies were typically issued in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, often for heavily illustrated books on popular subjects. This dummy, produced by the Edgewood Publishing Company of Philadelphia, features the finished work's lavishly decorated binding (with the finished binding's spine design included on the back cover), 160 pages of sample text and 27 illustrations, a 2-page advertisement praising the book's merits, and blank forms at the end for enrolling subscribers (with no takers listed in this copy). That such a promotional campaign existed for this work attests to the insatiable demand in the eastern United States for tales and images of frontier conflict with Indian tribes in the late nineteenth century.

This fascinating piece of publishing history originally came to the Newberry, this year, as a donation to our annual Book Fair. Book Fair Manager Dan Crawford identifies items of potential interest for the Newberry collection from the thousands of books donated to the Book Fair throughout the year, and a dedicated volunteer searches our existing holdings to assist curators in identifying rare works not already held by the library. Over 10,000 titles have been added to the Newberry collection thanks to the Book Fair donations we have received since first organizing the event in 1985.

This essay was written by Director of Reader Services and Curator of Americana Will Hansen.

Visit the 30th Annual Book Fair Thursday, July 24 through Sunday, July 27, to peruse the many, many used books that were not accessioned into the Newberry collection: more than 120,000 in 70 categories!