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Sylvia: a publicity stunt

September 6, 2011

Back in 1901, Small, Maynard & Co. published a truly terrible novel called Sylvia: the story of an American countess. It was witten by Evalyn Emerson. As far as I can tell, she never wrote anything else, and for we should all be grateful.

Anyway, Small, Maynard & Co., came up with a clever way to market the novel. They got a dozen well-known artists to draw portraits of Sylvia (apparently the most beautiful woman in the world) and asked readers to rank the protraits in order of beauty. The person whose guess came closest to the average would win. I’ve been unable to discover the results of the contest, but what I have found (it wasn’t difficult; they put it right in the front of the book) is the method used to tally the answers, and that means that I can recreate the contest. It won’t work if only a few people respond, and there’s a good chance that that’s what’s going to happen, but if this works, it will be really cool. And the more people that participate, the cooler it will be.

So: Please participate! Send your friends to participate! Link here from your blog, tumblr, twitter, etc.! The person whose ranking comes closest to the average will win a review by me of the book of their choice* Contest entries should contain all twelve artist names, ranked by beauty, and should be sent to redeeming.qualities@gmail.com. You don’t have to use the coupon below for your answers, but if you do, I will be super impressed. Contest ends…well, let’s say November 1st.

Sylvia, by A.B. Wenzell

Sylvia, by A.B. Wenzell

Sylvia, by Albert D. Blashfield

Sylvia, by Albert D. Blashfield

Sylvia, by Albert Herter

Sylvia, by Albert Herter

Sylvia, by Alice Barber Stephens

Sylvia, by Alice Barber Stephens

Sylvia, by C. Allan Gilbert

Sylvia, by C. Allan Gilbert

Sylvia, by Carle J. Blenner

Sylvia, by Carle J. Blenner

Sylvia, by Henry Hutt

Sylvia, by Henry Hutt

Sylvia, by Howard Chandler Christy

Sylvia, by Howard Chandler Christy

Sylvia, by J. Wells Champney

Sylvia, by J. Wells Champney

Sylvia, by John Elliott

Sylvia, by John Elliott

Sylvia, by Joseph DeCamp

Sylvia, by Joseph DeCamp

Sylvia, by Louise Cox

Sylvia, by Louise Cox

Contest Entry Coupon

* This must be a book to which I already have access. If it’s available for free on the internet, excellent. If it’s not, feel free to ask whether I own it or can borrow it from someone. I’m not putting any restrictions on the age or copyright status of the book, but it does have to be fiction.

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