"I kept agents out raking for country
for more"--Hank Morgan

Selling the Yankee


MT's Yankee himself believes in subscription selling, with a vengeance. Just as many demobilized Civil War veterans became book agents, so Hank employs the knights he has defeated as "spreaders of civilization": "They went clothed in steel and equipped with sword and lance and battle-axe, and if they couldn't persuade a person to try a sewing machine on the instalment plan, or a melodeon, or a barbed wire fence, or a prohibition journal, or any of the other thousand and one things they canvassed for, they removed him and passed on."

The canvassing agents of Webster & Company went equipped with the familiar sales prospectus, with its selection of passages and pictures chosen to catch the attention of potential readers. (For more on subscription publishing, see Marketing Twain. For a simulation of how a book agent displayed a prospectus, see "Calling on a Customer.")

Fred Hall, MT's agent at Webster & Co, made the selections for the prospectus, following MT's orders to "be careful not to get any religious matter in." MT was obviously concerned that the novel's critique of religion might hurt its popularity, although when Hall asked agents about this, apparently they reported that Catholics "were not book buyers anyway." Hall told MT his selections would play up "whatever makes fun of royalty and nobility . . . as that will suit the American public well."

One anomalous feature of the prospectus for Connecticut Yankee is the pictoral supplement that was bound into it. As it says on the "List of Illustrations" page below, only a few of Beard's illustrations were ready when the prospectus was put together. But Hall believed "a good canvass can be made from the pictures alone," and so as soon as Beard's work was completed got MT's approval to revise the prospectus by binding into it a "signature" or sampling of 16 pages of illustrations. This grouping begins on the list below after "The End" of the text on page 496. The explanatory captions attached to each picture were written by Hall, to "help agents in selling the book," but MT probably approved them. Like Beard's drawings, the captions are interesting in part because they seek to impose a particular reading on this problematic text; transcriptions of these glosses are available in the site, as part of the Illustrations section.

Also in this case two pages subscription blanks contain names and addresses of some of the people who agreed to purchase the novel; you can see enlargements of them in the site's MARKETING TWAIN section. Except for blank pages (including unused subscription forms) the entire prospectus is reproduced below in the two-page format used throughout this archive. The pages are numbered as listed, indicating their place in the forthcoming novel, and illustrations are indicated by their captions.

Every page can be accessed separately -- or you can tour sixteen 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 to move backward or forward through the prospectus. If you take either of the two "auto-tours," the pages will "flip" forward automatically. The small page version takes just over two minutes; the larger page version, just about three.

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