The San Francisco Calamity by Earthquake and Fire [and] San Francisco’s Great Disaster [and] San Francisco’s Horror of Earthquake and Fire [Salesman’s Sample Books].
Three Canvassing Books for the Great San Francisco Earthquake and Fire of 1906
Appealing assembly of three salesman’s sample, dummy, or canvassing books all focusing on San Francisco’s disastrous 1906 earthquake and fire.
The three titles—The San Francisco Calamity by Earthquake and Fire and San Francisco’s Great Disaster and San Francisco’s Horror of Earthquake and Fire, were issued in 1906, in the disaster’s immediate aftermath, by three separate publishers including two in Philadelphia, P.W. Ziegler Co. and Globe Bible Publishing Co. The first title has no imprint, only the name of the copyright holder, W.E. Scull.
These visually driven book sales prospectuses promised timely news coverage for this sensational tragedy. They also gave vivid descriptions of the disaster’s horrors covering everything from firefighting, the plight of the homeless, threats of famine, and tales of crime and looting to heartrending tales of human suffering and the history of earthquakes throughout history including prior U.S. earthquakes.
Each title was available in two binding styles, cloth and half morocco leather. The upper covers of the canvassing books represent the covers of the books as to be published. On the lower covers, a thin backstrip-like design shows the “spine” of each projected book. Actual samples of the morocco binding are not displayed here, but two of the salesman’s sample books do show illustrations of this fancier binding style.
The design program for the bookbinding of the first two titles focuses on fires and crumbling buildings; the final book is more somber, depicting via a paper onlay mounted to the upper cover a classical scene of mourning: a distraught, hands-clapsed woman bent over a classical marble ruin with a broken column. The words on the pedestal read: “In Memoriam of California’s Dead, April 18, 1906,” the date of the calamity.
Each canvassing book displays sample text pages and halftone illustrations and includes blank leaves for recording book sales. The complete table of contents for each of the three titles gives a sense of the projected book’s scope and contents. The table of contents for The San Francisco Calamity by Earthquake and Fire is presented, in the immediacy of the disaster, as tentative, the publisher reminding the potential buyer “[t]his table of contents is subject to revision, and will be added to as events transpire before the issue of the complete book.”
Three canvassing books covering the disastrous 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire demonstrating differing editorial and sales appeals as well as American trade bookbinding practices.
Description: The San Francisco Calamity by Earthquake and Fire [and] San Francisco’s Great Disaster [and] San Francisco’s Horror of Earthquake and Fire [Salesman’s Sample Books].
[Philadelphia or Np, (1906)]. ff +  plate leaves; ff +  plate leaves; ff +  plate leaves. Three Canvassing Books. 9¼ x 6½ inches; 8½ x 6 inches; and 9 x 6¾ inches. Pale green and red pictorial cloth, two with gilt titling and one with a paper illustration onlay; marbled or patterned endpapers. Generally very good with minor rubbing or brief soiling; binding of final title starting at two interior hinges and apparently lacking a leaf, likely of sales verbiage; overall, a nice grouping.