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Saturday, August 7, 2010

Houghton Mifflin Bookcards

I found this card in a copy of The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood (Houghton Mifflin, 1985). You might recall the 1990 film version starring Natasha Richardson, Faye Dunaway, and Robert Duval, among others.

The book's publisher, Houghton Mifflin, labels this insert a bookcard, but it was meant to be used as a postcard.

While the front of the bookcard duplicates the jacket art from the book, the reverse side contains a written nudge, in a perforated area, to send this card to a friend if you enjoyed the book.


As this is the first one I've run across, I wonder if this were a short-lived promotional campaign for this or a few select books? I also wonder how many were issued and what percentage were actually used? While it's nice to have this piece of ephemera fully intact, I'd also like to come across some used cards with reader comments.

I did a little quick research, using Abebooks.com's Advance Search feature, which allows you to narrow your search by publisher and date range, as well as key words. I used them all and also selected 1st Edition and Hardcover, thinking that Houghton Mifflin may have inserted these cards only in their first print run of a book.

My initial search resulted in just eight books with bookcards included, three of which were The Handmaid's Tale. The remaining five books included one duplicate. The publication dates of these books ranged from 1984-1986.

I was about to conclude (reasonably enough) that Houghton Mifflin printed these bookcards only for that time period, but I decided to expand the range to make sure I had covered the actual period these cards were issued. I changed the date range to an exaggerated 1850-2010. Only one more book popped up in the results, a spoof of Gone With the Wind, titled The Wind Done Gone (2001). So now we have a range spanning 1984 to 2001, with most books lumped together from 1984-1986 and one sitting way out at 2001.

I'm reasonably sure these promotional bookcards were issued only during the time period I found--1980s through the early 2000s. As with subscription ads inserted into magazines, perhaps many of these bookcards just got trashed after the book was purchased.

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