Picturesque Camden is an interesting work in that it clearly has promotion as its raison d’etre, but at the same time has a kind of quality and depth that goes beyond a flier or leaflet. It is written in a far more sophisticated style than one would expect from a tourist brochure, and contains detailed illustrations and photographs that one would typically associate with a guidebook rather than promotional material. Other anomalous features include its length, which really puts in the category of a short book, and its construction, equivalent to a paperback rather than a pamphlet. Although the materials would not be especially high quality for a book, they far exceed a simple tourist leaflet, meaning that it would certainly not have been free. This disconnect between its apparent purpose and its form is intriguing and raises questions as to the intended audience of the book. The combination of writing style and physical form lead one to believe that the book was intended for a relatively sophisticated and financially audience.
To begin with, Picturesque Camden is written in a sophisticated, if somewhat dramatic style, with pretensions to real literary quality. The descriptions of places are rich and detailed, and the author even includes quotations from verse, always indented and in a smaller font, giving the piece an air of cultivation, although given the often mundane quality of the subject matter and the commercial background of the book are an odd contrast to the flowery language. The overall effect is one of aspiration, which would make sense given that the purpose of the piece is to attract tourists; one can deduce based on the language and the use of poetry excerpts that the intended audience is presumed to be sophisticated and urbane, or at least have pretensions to be perceived as such. In addition, the maps are aesthetically pleasing and somewhat stylized, with the overall tone one of style as well as function. The general appearance of the text and maps is formal and looks like a legitimate book. Finally, and perhaps most revealingly, the author asserts that goal is for Camden to compete as a summer resort with Bar Harbor and other East Coast destinations that were, and to an extent still are, associated with wealthy travellers.
The physical construction of the book is another area of interest, as it is an intersection between a promotional leaflet and a full-fledged book. Although the volume is small compared to most books, it has a binding as well as front and back covers. While it makes use of stab stitching, which some consider cheap enough to exclude volumes bound in such a manner from consideration as literary works, but from a practical standpoint it still qualifies it as a book.This alone would imply that it cost money, since due to the construction would likely have been too expensive to simply give away; this can be further inferred by the fact that it was printed locally rather than by a large distributor, so a giveaway would likely have been beyond the resources of a local printer unless they had substantial financial backing. However, the commercial element is reinforced by the presence of ads in the back pages, which does make clear that despite any literary pretensions it is ultimately a piece of advertising. It also contains many excellent examples of early photogravure or rotogravure prints, a photo printing technology that at the time was considered cutting edge and would definitely have added expense to printing the book. These features would almost certainly have made it impracticable to distribute for free.
Clearly the intended audience was expected to purchase the guide, and given its dual promotional and informational nature they were essentially paying to be convinced to vacation in Camden. The advanced prints, literary allusions, and flowery language all indicate that the book is intended for a wealthier audience, as does the explicit comparison between Camden and other posh Eastern resorts. The juxtaposition of higher quality materials than might be expected in a promotional document with its core commercial message seems to indicate that it is intended for well-heeled tourists who might be receptive to “fancier packaging.” Coupled with the fact that the materials used would likely have made free distribution cost-prohibitive, we can deduce that the book probably had a price, which is significant given that it is more or less a sales tool.