Publishers' Catalogues & Ads

Although MT did very little revising of his work once a text was published, his various publishers kept reissuing his books in new editions. These representative catalogues -- from the beginning, middle and end of his career -- help us appreciate the way his books were presented as both imaginative achievements and material commodities.


The American Publishing Company, as run by Elisha Bliss, published MT's books until 1880. With the success of Innocents Abroad he immediately became their most valuable asset, but Bliss published a number of other subscription books -- too many, MT felt. This four-page list of those titles was included inside the prospectus of Tom Sawyer (1876).


By 1880 MT thought he had had enough of Bliss, who turned out to be as good at misleading his authors as he was at misleading the public. The established Boston firm of Osgood & Company brought out two MT books -- The Prince and the Pauper and Life on the Mississippi -- but by 1884 MT had founded his own publishing house: Webster & Co. Its first book was Huck Finn. By 1892, when this illustrated catalogue came out, its book list was a long and growing one.


Webster & Co. crashed in the Panic of 1893. For Pudd'n-head Wilson and other books of the 1890s MT was forced back to the American Publishing Company, now headed by Frank Bliss, Elisha's son. But as part of the reorganization of MT's property after his bankruptcy Harpers acquired his earlier copyrights, and by the middle of the decade were bringing out collected editions of his work. This beautifully illustrated catalogue from 1912 advertises the 25-volume National Edition of MT's work.


During the last 15 years of MT's life Harper's published his works in several different sets and combinations, as you can see from this collection of five ads from the back pages of Harper's Weekly Magazine, 1896 - 1910.

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