Skip to main content
Go to accessibility notice


    Original Salesman's Dummy for Mark Twain's Life on the Mississippi

    [Mark Twain] Life on the Mississippi. Boston: James R. Osgood and Company, 1883.
    Salesman's dummy for the first edition. Octavo. 106 pages with frontispiece and numerous illustrations. Subscription sheet and publisher's advertisements at end.

    Sometimes called a "canvassing book" or a "salesman's dummy," a prospectus was created of sample pages from a forthcoming book. Designed to catch a consumer's eye, the cover was often quite fancy and the book's illustrations were prominently featured. It is unclear what role authors played in deciding which parts of their works to include in a prospectus, but we know that Mark Twain understood their importance. When Huck Finn was in production at his own publishing company, Twain wrote Charles Webster: "As fast as [the illustrator] gets through with the chapters, take them & read & select your matter for your canvassing book. . . . Remember," he added, referring to the prospectus for Life on the Mississippi offered here, "Osgood fooled away no end of time on his canvassing book, & then got out one that was eminently calculated to destroy the sale."

    This heavily embossed and decorated prospectus is bound in brown buckram and shows heavy wear, rubbing, and bumping to the spine and all edges and corners. Binding samples are glued to both pastedowns. The first few leaves of the book have separated; the rest of the textblock shows occasional foxing, staining, and age toning throughout. Subscription sign-up sheets are included at the end, this example noting 18 sales. A very unusual and interesting item underscoring the importance of door-to-door salesmen in the book trade.

    Shipping, Taxes, Terms and Bidding
    Calculate Standard Domestic Shipping

    Sales Tax information  |  Terms and Conditions

    Bidding Guidelines and Bid Increments

    Glossary of Terms

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    February, 2008
    21st-22nd Thursday-Friday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 6
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 1,133

    Buyer's Premium per Lot:
    19.5% of the successful bid (minimum $9) per lot.

    Sold for: Sign-in or Join (free & quick)

    Heritage membership

    Join Now - It's Free

    1. Past Auction Values (prices, photos, full descriptions, etc.)
    2. Bid online
    3. Free Collector newsletter
    4. Want List with instant e-mail notifications
    5. Reduced auction commissions when you resell your
    Consign now
    • Cash Advances
    • More Bidders
    • Trusted Experts
    • Over 200,000 Satisfied Consignors Since 1976
    Only 5 days left to consign to the 2018 September 13 Books Signature Auction Books - Dallas!

    Learn about consigning with us

    I don’t often do testimonials but in this case I felt truly obligated to thank Heritage Auctions for the extremely professional job your organization did for me.
    Charlie K.,
    Pittsburgh, PA
    View More Testimonials receives more traffic than any other auction house website. (Source:

    Video tutorial

    Getting the most out of search

    Recent auctions

    2018 June 10 Arms & Armor, Civil War & Militaria Signature Auction - Dallas
    2018 June 10 Arms & Armor, Civil War & Militaria Signature Auction - Dallas
    REALIZED $616,190