The Acquisitions Table: Old England

Old England: a pictorial museum of regal, ecclesiastical, municipal, baronial, and popular antiquities. Ed. by Charles Knight. Boston: Samuel Walker and Co., [186-?]

A fine copy of a most unusual salesman’s sample book. This two-volume large folio (36 cm. high) history of England, profusely illustrated with hundreds of wood engravings and 27 full-page color-printed wood-engraved plates, was first published in London in 1845, then reissued several times with 13 additional color plates. Sometime in the 1860s, Samuel Walker of Boston published an American edition consisting of the English sheets with new title pages. This salesman’s sample consists of the tables of contents, index, ca. 100 sample pages of text, and no fewer than 14 of the 40 color plates. No ruled leaves are included for subscribers to sign their names, and no sample bindings are included—this copy is plainly bound in a “wallet” binding of black pebble-grain morocco—so this particular sample of what would have been an expensive book probably was shown to bookstore proprietors and other members of the trade.

Purchased on eBay. Janet & Marcus McCorison and Henry F. DePuy Funds.

More information:

  • More examples of salesman’s sample books (also calling canvasing books or dummies) can be found in the AAS online catalog by searching for the genre “dummies.”

Published by

David Whitesell

Curator of Books, American Antiquarian Society

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