“Shakspere” for Dummies
The Works of Shakspere [salesman’s dummy]. Edited by Charles Knight. New York: Virtue & Yorston, [between 1863 and 1876].
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Book salesmen would take this dummy volume door-to-door to enlist subscribers to what promised to be the “Best edition of Shakspere Published.” The large folio format is quite thin and easy to transport; it contains only blank lined pages for subscribers’ names at the back, a prospectus, a few pages of text followed by many examples of illustrations (such as this one of Puck) . With this Shakespeare edition, publishers Virtue & Yorston played to their strengths as purveyors of what we would call today coffee-table books – or then might have been referred to as “drawing-room table” books:
“The size of the book -- imperial quarto – is sufficiently large to allow the engravings to be executed on a scale of ten inches by eight, and will keep it within the range of the book-case, as well as render it a handsome addition to books for the drawing-room table.”