2016 Summer Seminar in the History of the Book

Subscription Publishing in America

Sunday, June 12 through Friday, June 17, 2016

Meeting Locations:
Goddard Daniels House (GDH)
Council Room (CR)
Antiquarian Hall (AH)

Schedule and Syllabus

Sunday, June 12
4:30 pm Introductions, tour of the library, and overview of the
collections (meet in the lobby of Antiquarian Hall, at 185 Salisbury Street)

6:00 pm Drinks and dinner (Goddard Daniels House, 190 Salisbury

Monday, June 13
9 – 10:30 am The Colonial Period (GDH)

10:30 am Break

11:00 - 12:30 pm The Colonial Period (continued)


  • Farren, Donald. “Publishing by Subscription: Insights into the Eighteenth-Century American Book Trade (With a Special Focus on Connecticut).” Unpublished paper from “Printing and Society in Early America” conference, AAS, 24-25 Oct. 1980.
  • Farrington, Lynne. “‘Agents Wanted’: Subscription Publishing in America.” On-line exhibition of the Annenberg Rare Book and Manuscript Library, University of Pennsylvania at http://www.library.upenn.edu/exhibits/rbm/agents/index.html
  • Ito, Akiyo. “Olaudah Equiano and the New York Artisans: The First American Edition of The Interesting Narrative of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African.” Early American Literature 32 (1997): 82-101.
  • Powell, William S. “Patrons of the Press: Subscription Book Purchasers in North Carolina, 1733-1850.” North Carolina Historical Review 39 (1962): 423-99.
  • Stafford, Marjorie. “Subscription Publishing in the United States, 1865-1930,” MLS thesis, U of Illinois, 1943, pp. 7-29.

12:30 Lunch

1:30 – 3:00 Afternoon Exhibition: Pre-1800 Subscription (CR, AH)

3:00 Break

3:30 – 4:45 Afternoon Workshop: Finding the market (subscription lists)
(CR, AH)

Tuesday, June 14

9 – 10:30 am Subscription during the early national & antebellum periods (GDH)


  • Arbour, Keith. Canvassing Books, Sample Books, and Subscription Publishers’ Ephemera, 1833-1951, in the Collection of Michael Zinman. Ardsley, NY: Hadyn Foundation for the Cultural Arts, 1996. pp. xi-xxvii.
  • Gilreath, James. “Mason Weems, Mathew Carey and the Southern Booktrade.” Publishing History X (1981): 27-49.
  • Hackenberg, Michael. “The Subscription Book Publishing Network in Nineteenth-Century America.” In Getting the Books Out: Papers of the Chicago Conference on the Book in 19th-Century America (Washington, DC: Center for the Book, Library of Congress, 1987), pp. 45-75.
  • Remer, Rosalind. “Preachers, Peddlers, and Publishers: Philadelphia’s Backcountry Trade, 1800-1830.” Journal of the Early Republic 14 (Winter 1994): 497-522.
  • Sutton, Walter. “Henry Howe: Twenty Thousand Agents Wanted!” In The Western Book Trade: Cincinnati as a 19th Century Publishing and Book-Trade Center (Columbus: Ohio State University Press for The Ohio Historical Society, 1961), pp. 215-35.
  • Tyler, Ronnie C. “The Royal Octavo Edition.” In Audubon’s Great National Work: The Royal Octavo Edition of Birds of America (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1993), pp. 47-72, plus 153-62, 175-80.

10:30 AM Break

11:00 – 12:30 pm Early national & antebellum periods (continued) (GDH)

12:30 Lunch

1:30 - 3:00 Afternoon Exhibition: Antebellum Subscription (CR, AH)

3:00 Break

3:30 – 4:45 Afternoon Workshop: Advertising the Material Text (prospectuses, etc.) (CR, AH)

Wednesday, June 15

9 – 10:30 am Serials and Newspapers (GDH)


  • Brigham, Clarence S. Selections from Journals and Journeymen: A Contribution to History of Early American Newspapers (Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania P, 1950), pp. 15-36.
  • Gardner, Eric. “Remembered (Black) Readers: Subscribers to the Christian Recorder, 1864-1865.” American Literary History 23 (2011): 229-59.
  • Jackson, Leon. “Toward a History of Literary Debt.” In The Business of Letters: Authorial Economies in Antebellum America (Stanford: Stanford UP, 2008), pp. 142-85.
  • Leonard, Thomas C. Selections from News for All: America’s Coming-of-Age with the Press (New York: Oxford UP, 1995), pp. 33-61.

10:30 Break

11:00 – 12:30 pm Serials and Newspapers (continued)

12:30 Lunch

1:30 – 2:30 Library orientation (AH)

2:30– 4:30 Forum on subscription projects (GDH)
Philip Eppard, University at Albany
John Garcia, Ford Foundation Fellow, American Antiquarian Society
Basie Gitlin, Yale University Libraries
Paul Wright, University of Massachusetts Press, retired

4:30 Break

5:00 – 8:00 Time for Library Research

Thursday, June 16
9 – 10:30 am Canvassing After 1865 (GDH)


  • Friedman, Walter A. “Selling Ulysses S. Grant: The Art of the Canvasser.” In Birth of A Salesman: The Transformation of Selling in America (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2004), pp. 34-55.
  • Growoll, A. “Selling Subscription Books.” In The Profession of Bookselling: A Handbook of Practical Hints for the Apprentice and Bookseller, Part III (New York: Publishers’ Weekly, 1913), pp. 143-47.
  • Stafford, Marjorie. “Subscription Publishing in the United States, 1865-1930,” MLS thesis, U of Illinois, 1943, pp. 30-95.
  • Thomas, Amy M. “‘There Is Nothing So Effective as a Personal Canvass’: Revaluing Nineteenth-Century American Subscription Books.” Book History 1 (1998): 140-55.
  • Winship, Michael. “Charles Scribner’s Sons as Subscription Publishers: The Canvass for Stanley’s ‘In Darkest Africa’ in the Pacific Coast Agency.” Princeton University Library Chronicle 71, no. 2 (Winter 2010): 121-49.


  • Cook, Nancy. “Finding His Mark: Twain's The Innocents Abroad as a Subscription Book.” In Reading Books: Essays on the Material Book and Literature in America, ed. Michele Moylan & Lance Stiles (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1996), pp. 151-78.
  • Dickinson, Leon T. “Marketing a Bestseller: Mark Twain’s Innocents Abroad.” Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America 41 (1947): 107-22.
  • Rainey, Sue. Selections from Creating Picturesque America: Monument to the Natural and Cultural Landscape (Nashville: Vanderbilt UP, 1994), pp. 77-87, 274-83, plus 315-21.

10:30 Break

10:50 – 12:30 pm Canvassing After 1865 (continued)

12:30 Lunch

1:30 – 3:00 Afternoon Exhibition: Clinching a sale (CR, AH)

3:30 – 4:45 Afternoon Workshop: Salesmanship (manuals, autobiographies, etc.) (CR, AH)

6:00 pm Cookout at the Goddard-Daniels House (weather permitting)

Friday, June 17
9 – 10:30 am 20th-Century Developments (GDH)
Guest Faculty: Daniel Raff, Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania


  • Compton, Frank E. Selections from Subscription Books (New York: New York Public Library, 1939), pp. 38-47.
  • Olcott, Charles S. “Selling by Subscription.” In The Building of a Book: A Series of Practical Articles Written by Experts in the Various Departments of Book Making and Distributing, ed. Frederick H. Hitchcock (New York: Grafton Press, 1906), pp. 339-49.
  • Raff, Daniel M. G. “The Book-of-the-Month Club as a New Enterprise.” Unpublished paper.
  • Stafford, Marjorie. “Subscription Publishing in the United States, 1865-1930,” MLS thesis, U of Illinois, 1943, pp. 96-168.
  • Yard, Robert Sterling. “A Dollar Down and a Dollar a Minute.” In The Publisher (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1913), pp. 87-138.

10:30 am Break

10:45 – 12:15 pm Summary (GDH)

12:15 Lunch (boxed lunches—will be available to take with you)

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