Philadelphia: Thayer, Merriam & Co.
Undated, ca. 1889. Publisher's broadsheet prospectus, 9.5 x 12 inches, for "Barnum's Own Book," apparently one of many editions of The Life of Barnum, the World-Renowned Showman, which came out under several different imprints in 1890. Printed on very thin paper, it has old tape reinforcements to closed tears at two edges, and there are old folding creases. Still a very good example. Thayer, Merriam & Co. appears to have operated only from 1881 to 1892, during which time they put out about 25 books, likely all sold by subscription. This prospectus touts the widespread appeal of Barnum's story on one side and on the other solicits sales agents -- because "everybody wants this captivating story of the great showman". Potential agents are advised to make sure they don't have a canvassing book for any "bogus Life of Barnum" (of which, we are told, there are many), and, should they have one, to send it to Thayer, Merriam along with 35 cents. In exchange, they will receive a Thayer, Merriam "canvassing-book and outfit," for "the only genuine life of Barnum, written by himself." It is not clear if a Thayer, Merriam edition was ever actually published--though the salesman's sample was (two copies have appeared at auction). Only one holding is recorded in OCLC--at Tufts, but the Tufts catalogue, which includes several editions of this book, does not actually list one from this publisher. Either way, this broadsheet is an excellent artifact of the American book trade in the late 19th century.