It is fair to say that the Handbook of Chemistry and Physics started as a marketing tool for the Chemical Rubber Company, a Cleveland company that sold tubing, stoppers, glassware, and rubber aprons to local high schools and colleges. The head of the company enlisted a chemistry professor from Case School of Applied Science (later morphed into Case Wester Reserve University), William R. Veazey, to prepare a collection of reference data and recipes of interest to laboratory scientists. It amounted to 116 pages, followed by illustrated advertisements for the company's products. It was apparently successful enough to warrant a second edition in 1914, and the pattern of annual updates continued, with a few missing years, for the next 96 years.
Although it may not be readily apparent, the early history of scientific publishing has much to teach in the Internet age. Look on the desk of any working research chemist and you're likely to find at least one of these three items: (1) The CRC Handbook; (2) The Aldrich Catalog; and (3) The Merck Index.
It may be no accident that all three of these iconic reference works trace their roots to marketing.