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Stock# 84130

Salesman's Dummy with Profusion of American Maps - Including the West

An unusual example of a canvassing book with multiple folding maps, mostly of western and southern states, including Texas, California, Washington Territory, Florida and Louisiana. The titlepage mentions the Pacific Road road. The folding map of the United States shows the nation's railroad network.

Issued by the People's Publishing Co. With a two-page advertisement integral to the book to be displayed to prospective customers by the salesman, which is followed by several pages of mostly blank sheets intended for subscriber's names.

The volume includes the following maps:

  • Map of the United States of America. Folding
  • Washington Territory
  • California. Folding
  • Kansas
  • Oregon
  • Nebraska
  • Iowa
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri
  • Virginia and West Virginia
  • North and South Carolina
  • Florida
  • Texas. Without panhandle
  • Georgia
  • Alabama
  • Mississippi
  • Kentucky and Tennessee
  • Louisiana
  • Arkansas

With the following plates, many evocative of the West:

  • Pictorial extra-title with vignettes of life of in the West and South.
  • Castle Garden, the Emigrant Landing Place in New York
  • A Basin on the Columbia River
  • Prairie Home
  • Surveyor's Camp
  • Oil Wells [in West Virgina]
  • Fishing in Southern Waters

Cavassing Books

Often referred to as a salesman's dummy, a canvassing book is a fascinating artifact from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, used primarily in the book publishing industry. These books were used by traveling salesmen (canvassers) who sold books by subscription, a common practice during that time. In fact, the present example includes evidence that it was actually used by a book peddler, as there are several names written in pencil in the order blank pages which form an integral part of the book.

Here are some key characteristics of canvassing books:

  1. Sample Content: A canvassing book contained sample pages, illustrations, and often part of the text from the book being sold. This allowed potential customers to get a sense of the book's content and quality.

  2. Binding Options: They often included examples of different binding materials and colors so that subscribers could choose how they wanted their final copy to be bound. This bespoke aspect was a significant selling point.

  3. Subscription Lists: There was usually a section for the salesman to record the names of subscribers and their binding choices. This acted as an order form for the salesman to use when placing orders with the publisher.

  4. Marketing Tool: Canvassing books were essentially marketing tools. They were designed to be visually appealing and to provide a tangible example of what the customer could expect in the final product.

  5. Cultural and Historical Significance: These books now serve as valuable historical artifacts, providing insight into the publishing industry, marketing practices, and consumer preferences of that era.

The advent of modern printing techniques and changes in book distribution eventually made the practice of selling books by subscription less common, leading to the decline of the use of canvassing books.


While examples of canvassing books readily surface in the market, it is rare to find an example that contains so many maps of western interest.

Condition Description
Octavo. Original published pictorial gilt rust-colored pebbled cloth. Spine with older bleach-like discoloration, and with frayed ends and some separation of cloth along upper joint. Internally very clean and nice. Two binding samples mounted on pastedowns, a cloth version on front pastedown, and a calf leather version on back pastedown. Nearly very good. Pagination erratic, as is normal with cavassing books, which only present selective pages of the book. 19 maps (many folding). Extra pictorial titlepage and 6 plates. Printed publisher's circular advertisement attached to front free endpaper.