Jefferson County Online
A part of the IAGenWeb and USGenWeb Projects
Suggestions to those
purchasing books by subscription

The following is a chapter from "The History of Jefferson County, Iowa", Page 319, published by the Western Historical Company of Chicago in 1879.



The business of publishing books by subscription, having so often been brought into disrepute by agents making representations and declarations not authorized by the publisher, in order to prevent that as much as possible, and that there may be more general knowledge of the relation such agents bear to their principal, and the law governing such cases, the following statement is made:

A subscription is in the nature of a contract of mutual promises, by which the subscriber agrees to pay a certain sum for the work described; the consideration is concurrent that the publisher shall publish the book named, and deliver the same, for which the subscriber is to pay the price named. The nature and character of the work is described by the prospectus and sample shown. These should be carefully examined before subscribing, as they are the basis and consideration of the promise to pay, and not the too often exaggerated statements of the agent, who is merely employed to solicit subscriptions, for which he is usually paid a commission for each subscriber, and has no authority to change or alter the conditions upon which the subscriptions are authorized to be made by the publisher. Should the agent assume to agree to make the subscription conditional or modify or change the agreement of the publisher, as set out by the prospectus and sample, in order to bind the principal, the subscriber should see that such condition or changes are stated over or in connection with his signature, so that the publisher may have notice of the same.

All persons making contracts in reference to matters of this kind, or any other business, should remember that the law as written is, that they can not be altered, varied or rescinded verbally, but if done at all, must be done in writing. It is therefore important that all persons contemplating subscribing should distinctly understand that all talk before or after the subscription is made, is not admissible as evidence, and is no part of the contract.

Persons employed to solicit subscriptions are known to the trade as canvassers. They are agents appointed to do a particular business in a prescribed mode, and have no authority to do it any other way to the prejudice of their principal, nor can they bind their principal in any other matter. They can not collect money, or agree that payment may be made in anything else but money. They can not extend the time of payment beyond the time of delivery, nor bind their principal for the payment of expenses incurred in their business.

It would save a great deal of trouble, and often serious loss, if persons, before signing their names to any subscription book, or any written instrument, would examine carefully what it is; if they can not read themselves call on some one disinterested who can.

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