Selling Tom Sawyer


The prospectus for Tom Sawyer was put together in the fall of 1876 to allow consumers to preview 84 of the novel's 274 pages. (For more on subscription publishing, see Marketing Twain. For a simulation of how a book agent displayed a prospectus, see "Calling on a Customer.").

As can be seen by the contents list below, where illustrations are identified by a "caption" or [description], and chapter heads by roman numerals, the design was clearly to display a lot of artwork. Neither MT nor the American Publishing Co. were worried about narrative continuity (many episodes begin or end in the middle), or giving away the plot (buyers can tell from the prospectus that Joe dies and Tom finds his treasure), or even getting pages in the right order (note the sequence that goes 146, 149, 146, 147, 148).

Many of the novel's most beloved scenes are featured in this sampling, but surprisingly the white-washing scene is left out entirely. Depending on the binding selected, prices for Tom Sawyer ranged from $2.75 to $4.75 -- as indicated on the last page of the prospectus.

The pages listed below are displayed in pairs, as potential buyers would have seen them. Every page can be accessed separately -- or you can tour fourteen pages chosen to represent the whole (these are the pages marked on the list below with asterisks). There are three different ways to "tour" them. The first allows you to "turn" the pages at your own pace, and move backward or forward through the prospectus. If you take either of the two "auto-tours," the pages will "flip" forward automatically. The large-page version takes three minutes; the smaller page version, about half that long.


Page by Page

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