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| The American Gift Book, Part 2

The American Gift Book, Part 2

If the bindings, illustrations, novelty of the formats, or the social causes connected with gift books were not enough to entice buyers, perhaps the textual content could. These were, after all, books. Gift books were carefully calculated not to risk offense, prompting Walt Whitman (DEMOCRATIC VISTAS, 1888, p. 65) to recall them as "those highly‑refined imported and gilt‑edged themes... causing tender spasms in the coteries, and warranted not to chafe the sensitive cuticle of the most exquisitely artificial gossamer delicacy." Whitman was correct, of course, and his comment was directed toward the bad poetry, most of it by women, as previously discussed. But there was also good poetry, including many early first appearances by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Oliver Wendell Holmes, John Greenleaf Whittier, Edgar Allan Poe, Ralph Waldo Emerson, James Russell Lowell, and even Henry David Thoreau.
Published on 19 July 2011

By Kevin Mac Donnell


If the bindings, illustrations, novelty of the formats, or the social causes connected with gift books were not enough to entice buyers, perhaps the textual content could. These were, after all, books. Gift books were carefully calculated not to risk offense, prompting Walt Whitman (DEMOCRATIC VISTAS, 1888, p. 65) to recall them as "those highly‑refined imported and gilt‑edged themes... causing tender spasms in the coteries, and warranted not to chafe the sensitive cuticle of the most exquisitely artificial gossamer delicacy." Whitman was correct, of course, and his comment was directed toward the bad poetry, most of it by women, as previously discussed. But there was also good poetry, including many early first appearances by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Oliver Wendell Holmes, John Greenleaf Whittier, Edgar Allan Poe, Ralph Waldo Emerson, James Russell Lowell, and even Henry David Thoreau. Clement C. Moore's immortal poem, `The Night Before Christmas' first appeared in book‑form in THE NEW‑YORK BOOK OF POETRY (1837). And James Nelson Barker's poetical treatment of `Little Red Riding Hood' appeared first in THE ATLANTIC SOUVENIR for 1828. But even famous authors are not at the top of their form in everything they write, and gift books generally do not contain the best efforts of these poets. But if the poetry that appeared in gift books was not always the best, some of the fiction was outstanding. Perhaps Whitman had not read (or had long forgotten) the fiction in THE TOKEN, THE GIFT, and a few other gift annuals, fiction that often pushed beyond the existing boundaries of American fiction.

Nathaniel Hawthorne and Edgar Allan Poe wrote some of their best short fiction for gift books. Poe's `Pit and the Pendulum' was sure to "chafe the sensitive cuticle" or cause something more than "tender spasms" in the readers of THE GIFT for 1843. Among his other gift book writings were the first printings of `William Wilson,' `The Purloined Letter,' and `The Imp of the Perverse.' While Hawthorne's early tales were slightly less graphic than Poe's, they were still not suited for the swoonish, and gift annuals became an important source of income for him. Authors were not well‑paid for their gift book writings unless they were famous. The average gift book contributors generally were paid $1 or $2 per page, while famous authors could get as much as $5 per page. To make money writing for gift books, you had to stay busy, and Hawthorne did. Between 1832 and 1838, just six issues of THE TOKEN contained a total of twenty‑nine of his stories, with eight of them appearing in the 1837 issue alone. Among Hawthorne's short stories that first appeared in gift books were `My Kinsman, Major Molineux,' `Roger Malvin's Burial,' `The Gentle Boy,' `The Minister's Black Veil,' `The Man of Adamant,' `Howe's Masquerade,' `Endicott and the Red Cross,' `David Swan,' `The Great Carbuncle,' and `Sights From a Steeple.' It made sense when Hawthorne published his first collection of short stories, that he called them TWICE‑TOLD TALES (1837) because all of them had appeared previously in gift books.

Other gift book fiction was written by Washington Irving, William Gilmore Simms, John Neal, William E. Burton, James Kirke Paulding, and Charles Fenno Hoffman. Although James Fenimore Cooper never wrote for the gift books, he did allow some extracts from his novel, THE SPY (1821), to be reprinted in a gift book in 1850. And Frederick Douglass, famous for his autobiography, wrote only one piece of fiction, which appeared in an anti‑slavery gift book in 1853.

Not all of the fiction was written by well‑known authors, but some of the fiction that appeared in gift books broke new ground. The science fiction tale based on Halley's Comet that appeared in THE TOKEN for 1839 has already been mentioned. William Leggett's very early detective story, `The Rifle,' appeared in THE ATLANTIC SOUVENIR for 1828, in which ballistics are used to solve a murder, perhaps the first fictional use of such evidence to solve a crime. In THE ATLANTIC SOUVENIR for 1832 appeared a story by Poe's friend John Neal, `The Haunted Man,' in which the narrator cures a stranger of his phobias and demons, an early use of psychotherapy in fiction, and perhaps the first. Some popular western personalities also make appearances in gift book fiction, including Mike Fink (THE WESTERN SOUVENIR) and Buffalo Bill (THE FORGET ME NOT). Washington Irving is credited with writing the first story with a surprise ending in 1807 (`The Little Man in Black') long before gift books arrived on the scene, but the first story with a surprise ending in the modern style later made famous by O. Henry, is `The Heroine of Suli' in THE ATLANTIC SOUVENIR for 1830, and a tongue‑in‑cheek story by J. A. Jones in THE TOKEN for 1841 produces a slightly different surprise ending by playing on the contemporary reader's expectations of the socially defined roles of men and women. Some gift book fiction may have shaped American vocabulary; a story in THE TOKEN for 1840, `The Politician of Podunk,' may be the first use of that word. And gift book fiction may have laid the foundation for themes that later became commonplace in American novels. Henry James' now familiar plots centered around young American girls' encounters with wealthy and sophisticated European men is anticipated by Mrs. Embury's `The Count and the Cousin' in THE GIFT for 1837. Edith Wharton's love‑triangle in ETHAN FROME is dimly fore‑shadowed by a love‑triangle in `Pauline Drayton,' a story in THE IRIS for 1852. And Seba Smith's rags‑to‑riches stories in THE GIFT in the 1840s beat Horatio Alger to the punch by decades. Gift books were a major venue for America's first fictionalists, and most, if not all of the fictional themes and situations we now take for granted in American fiction made their debuts in American gift books.


Below is a brief annotated checklist of some of the more interesting American gift books and gift annuals. Those wishing to collect gift books should read the bibliography at the end of this article and arm themselves with a few of the basic guides that will provide more detailed information than space allows here. Gift books can be collected for their bindings, their illustrations, as social and cultural artifacts, or for their literary content, but their values are based primarily on their rarity, their condition, and their content. Those with important authors or contents fetch more money, as do those in unusual bindings, and while gift books with missing plates and broken bindings are easily found and cheap, copies in spectacular condition have become quite rare and bring premiums; those issued in boxes with the box intact are highly sought. A gift book with no familiar authors or important content, with the hinges cracked and the spine badly torn or missing might fetch just $20. Most gift books in average condition and average contents fetch $50 to $150, and those with Hawthorne stories fetch a bit more, and those with Poe stories can bring still higher prices. Gift books like THE RAINBOW, THE EXCELSIOR ANNUAL, or AUTOGRAPH LEAVES OF OUR COUNTRY'S AUTHORS also bring good sums, as do those that contain first book printings of famous poems like `The Night Before Christmas' or `Little Red Riding Hood.' And some, like THE OFFERING, are so rare that price isn't the first concern -‑just finding a copy is nearly impossible. Regardless of contents or rarity, a shelf of disheveled gift books somehow looks much worse than a shelf of mundane textbooks in tatters, perhaps because it is obvious at a glance that the gift books were, once upon a time, especially beautiful. But a shelf of pristine gift books will sorely test both patience and pocket‑book, so compromises are suggested.

I hope this checklist will suggest some collecting possibilities, but another aspect of gift books is worthy of exploration. Many stories and poems in American gift books appeared anonymously or hidden behind pseudonyms. Misattributions abound in the older reference sources, and it is strongly urged that the most current author bibliographies be consulted before accepting the verdict of an attribution made more than forty of fifty years ago. With the advent of optical scanning and textual analysis software, American gift books are ripe for scholarly research to revisit many of the long‑accepted attributions and to make new discoveries of authorship.

Note: The dates given below for gift annuals are generally the dates the volume was issued "for" ‑‑it is understood that most actually appeared at the end of the previous year.

THE ATLANTIC SOUVENIR. Boston, 1826‑1832. One of the major gift books, the early volumes were issued in printed boards, boxed, and the later ones were in embossed leathers. A high percentage of the contributions are anonymous, and others are of questionable attribution, so this gift book is a good candidate for textual study.

AUTOGRAPHS FOR FREEDOM. Boston, 1853‑4. The 1853 volume is rather scarce; the 1854 volume is fairly common. Besides containing Frederick Douglass's only work of fiction (1853), this gift book featured writings by several other African American authors: James McCune Smith, William W. Brown, William G. Allen, James M. Whitfield, and Charles L. Reason. Each contribution contains the facsimile autograph of the author, an unusual feature.

AUTOGRAPH LEAVES OF OUR COUNTRY'S AUTHORS. Baltimore, 1864. This gift book was issued to raise money for the Sanitary Fair (an early version of the Red Cross) during the Civil War and is distinguished by the fact that every contribution is reproduced in full autograph facsimile from lithograph plates. Not only the format, but the contents are equally remarkable: Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, Key's `Star‑Spangled Banner,' and John Howard Payne's `Home, Sweet Home' all appear in autograph facsimile, although none are first appearances in print. Also appearing, some in their first printings, were works by authors and statesmen both living and dead: Melville, Thoreau, Poe, Longfellow, Holmes, Whittier, Lowell, Bryant, Emerson, Hawthorne, Audubon, Cooper, Stowe, Richard Henry Dana, Charles Brockton Brown, John Quincy Adams, Daniel Webster, Margaret Fuller, and a host of minor personalities ‑‑an exceptionally broad combination of writers not found together in any other American gift book.

THE EXCELSIOR ANNUAL. New York, 1849. So far as can be determined, this gift book is the first anthology devoted exclusively to the writings of children. As mentioned previously, the girls outnumbered the boys. The contributors, chosen from eleven New York City schools, were seven to sixteen years old, and were mostly competent if rather conventional writers, but they wrote on a surprising variety of subjects: printing, suicide, the planet Neptune, religion, current news events, social issues, war, Indians, fantasies, scientific study, ethics, and some adventure stories.

GEMS FOR YOU. Manchester, 1850. An otherwise unimportant gift book, except for the fact that it contains Mary Baker Eddy's first appearance in a book, long before she founded Christian Science.

THE GIFT. Philadelphia, 1836‑1845. There were no issues for 1838 or 1841. This major gift annual is famous for its first appearances of some of Poe's most famous stories. But THE GIFT had roughly eighty contributors over its life span, and among them were William Gilmore Simms, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Emerson, Lowell, Longfellow, and some minor authors of note like Nathaniel Parker Willis, Christopher P. Cranch, and Catherine E. Beecher. THE GIFT was one of the few gift annuals to issue a few copies of some of its annual volumes in large paper format. Thompson's checklist claims that the issues for 1837, 1839 and 1843 were so issued, but after locating hundreds of copies of THE GIFT in libraries and handling dozens of them over the years, I have only located large paper copies of the issues for 1837 and 1842. The text block of the issues for 1836 and 1837 measure about 15.5 cm. tall; the 1839 issue measures about 17 cm.; the 1840, 1842, and 1843 issues measure about 18.5 cm.; and the 1844 and 1845 issues measure about 22 cm. The large paper issue for 1837 is exactly the same size as the slightly taller normal format used for the 1840, 1842, and 1843 volumes, and the large paper issue for 1842 is 23.5 cm., just a little taller than the normal format used for the 1844 and 1845 issues. It would seem that the larger paper issues anticipated the two increases in size, and perhaps functioned as a sort of market test for the publisher. Unlike any other American gift annual, as THE GIFT increased in popularity, it also increased in size. I suspect that Thompson's 1839 and 1843 large paper issues are bibliographical ghosts. Thompson himself caught Faxon citing such a ghost. Faxon lists an 1829 issue of THE GIFT and says it was edited by Nathaniel Parker Willis. No edition of THE GIFT appeared before 1836, and while Willis did edit THE TOKEN for 1829 (and assisted with the 1828 and 1830 issues) and also edited THE LEGENDARY and one issue of THE OPAL (1844), he never edited any issue of THE GIFT. THE GIFT was published in some attractive embossed bindings in its early years; the later volumes are in heavily gilt‑stamped leathers.

HOMES OF AMERICAN AUTHORS. New York, 1853, and HOMES OF AMERICAN STATESMEN. New York, 1854. These two gift books were discussed separately in some detail earlier.

THE LIBERTY BELL. Boston, 1839‑1858. No issues were published for 1850, 1854, 1855, or 1857. The first issue is dated 1839, but was issued "for" 1840, and the second issue is dated 1841 and was "for 1841, misleading some to think that there was no issue for 1840. This gift annual was one of the longest‑lived, although it never had wide circulation, and it's likely that it would not have raised much money for the anti‑slavery cause had it not been for benefactors who covered much of the production costs. These were sold in conjunction with anti‑slavery fairs, and it is thought that no more than 1,000 of any issue ever appeared; most of the issues are fairly scarce compared to other gift annuals. The bindings were usually cloth, sometimes fully gilt, other times very plain, and a few leather copies were prepared but those are very rare. The contributors comprise a Who's Who in the anti‑slavery cause: Emerson, Garrison, Douglass, Higginson, Longfellow, James and Maria Lowell, Child, Channing, Phillips, Stowe, Parker, et al. Other American contributors included Lucretia Mott, W. W. Story, and Bayard Taylor. Among the foreign contributors were Elizabeth Barrett Barrett (Browning after 1846), the Russian historian Nicholas Tourgueneff (not to be confused with the novelist Ivan Turgenev), Mary Howitt, Lady Byron, Alexis de Tocqueville, and Fredrika Bremer, the famous Swedish feminist and novelist, who, like Frances Trollope and Tocqueville before her, had traveled extensively around the United States and had observed slavery first‑hand ‑‑something, ironically, that few of the American contributors could claim. One abolitionist of note is glaringly absent from this gift annual because he did not agree with the radical Garrisonian politics of the gift book's editor, Maria Weston Chapman: John Greenleaf Whittier. Although Garrison and Whittier had been close friends and fellow abolitionists for years, he found both Garrison and Chapman increasingly intolerant of dissenting views and they had a political parting of the ways during the time THE LIBERTY BELL was being published. But in later years Garrison wrote a lengthy poem for Whittier's birthday, and when Garrison died in 1879, Whittier wrote a verse in tribute to be read at his funeral, and later insisted that they had always been friends and their friendship had never been "disturbed" for any reason.

THE OFFERING. Cambridge, 1829. This gift book was published to raise money for "infant education" and contains the first book printings of both Ralph Waldo Emerson and Oliver Wendell Holmes. It is extremely rare, and only a handful of copies survive.

THE RAINBOW. Albany, 1847. This gift book has been previously discussed and is of primary interest for its remarkable binding. Among the contributors were William Gilmore Simms, Sarah Helen Whitman (Poe's last beloved), and James T. Fields (the publisher). Harrison may have been the only gift book publisher to arrange his contents page by states, showing where each of his contributors lived, formatting his volume as a kind of anthology of regional literature. Nineteen states are listed. Southern writers were usually not well‑represented in gift books (Simms and Poe were the usual exceptions), but THE RAINBOW includes authors from Mississippi, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina.

[Ticknor & Fields] Boston, 1834‑1866. Ticknor & Fields published the last issue of THE BOSTON BOOK (1850), and issued a number of gift books with superb contents over the years that reflected the reputation they had as a literary publishing house. James T. Fields himself had published his own poems in more than a dozen gift books before his name ever appeared on a title‑page as a publisher. Their first gift book, THE OASIS (1834) was published under the Allen & Ticknor imprint, and they published the penultimate TOKEN for 1841 under the William D. Ticknor imprint. Longfellow edited THE WAIF (1845; published December, 1844) and THE ESTRAY (1847; published December, 1846) and his brother Samuel edited THALATTA; A BOOK FOR THE SEA‑SIDE (1853), which contains a poem by Thoreau, the only time Thoreau sent one of his writings for inclusion in a gift book. MEMORY AND HOPE (1851) was printed in an edition of 1,000 copies for Marianne Silsbee, the wealthy socialite widow of a prominent Massachusetts politician, and counted Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Maria Lowell among its contributors. FAVORITE AUTHORS, A COMPANION BOOK OF PROSE AND POETRY (1861) and GOOD COMPANY FOR EVERY DAY IN THE YEAR (1866) are late examples of their work, whose contents were mostly drawn from Ticknor & Fields' substantial stable of authors.

THE TOKEN. Boston, 1828‑1842. This enduring gift annual is perhaps the most famous of all American gift books. It was edited by Samuel Griswold Goodrich (aka Peter Parley) who christened the era of THE TOKEN as the "age of annuals" in his 1857 memoirs. Best‑known for printing many of Hawthorne's early short stories, THE TOKEN is also collected for its steel‑engravings, and for its bindings. The bindings used on THE TOKEN reflect almost the entire range of bindings found on American gift books. The first few issues were in printed boards and boxed, the next two were in gilded silk, still later issues were bound in lovely embossed leathers, and the very last issues were in stamped cloth or leathers.


This bibliography includes the two major books about American gift books (Faxon and Thompson) and a few other books and journal articles that provide more detailed information on some aspects of the bindings, illustrations, and printing history that relate to American gift books. Most of these are still in print or otherwise readily available.

Abbott, Jacob. THE HARPER ESTABLISHMENT. New York: Harper [1855] Abbott is remembered, if at all, for his famous edifying series for children, the Rollo books, and although he wrote this wonderful account of nineteenth century publishing practices with a young audience in mind it is as informative and entertaining reading as any scholarly work on the subject, and more valuable since it is eye‑witness testimony. Harper's original building had been destroyed by a fire in 1853, and one motivation behind this book was to provide the public with a floor‑by‑floor tour of their huge new seven‑story "fire‑proof" brick facility. Abbott takes the reader on a step‑by‑step inspection of the Harper biblio‑assembly‑line from the time the author's manuscript arrives to the moment the finished books are carried away. It reveals nothing about gift book manufacture, but is included here for those who want to better understand the historical context in which gift books were produced, or learn more about how books were made in the first half of the nineteenth century. The original edition is quite scarce, but a facsimile edition was printed in 1956 by the Shoe String Press, and another in 2001 by Oak Knoll Press (I supplied the original edition from which this latest facsimile reprint was made).

Allen, Sue. VICTORIAN BOOKBINDINGS, A PICTORIAL SURVEY. Chicago: University of Chicago Press [1976] Revised edition. Sue Allen's researches in the history of bookbindings are well‑known; in this brief survey she describes the evolution of publisher's bindings and illustrates them on three microfiche cards that accompany this booklet. The binding styles used on gift books are described and illustrated.

Ball, Douglas. VICTORIAN PUBLISHER'S BINDINGS. London: The Library Association [1985] The focus of this study is on cloth bindings from 1820 to 1880, and it is one of the best surveys of the subject. The first few chapters provide a wealth of information on bookbinding technology during the gift book era, and there is a useful section identifying cloth types and their periods of use.

Blanck, Jacob, ed. THE BIBLIOGRAPHY OF AMERICAN LITERATURE. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1955‑1991. 9 vols. This is the monumental standard bibliography of nineteenth century American literature, and is included here because it has at the front of each volume excellent illustrations of the cloth types used. It is also the single best source of information on the gift book appearances of Emerson, Hawthorne, Holmes, Longfellow, Poe, Stowe, Whittier, and many other authors.

Faxon, Frederick. LITERARY ANNUALS AND GIFT BOOKS. Boston: The Boston Book Company, 1912. This is one of the two major sources of information on gift books, although some of the author attributions and binding history information is slightly out‑of‑date. The 1973 reprint by the Private Libraries Association adds two excellent essays by Eleanore Jamieson (on gift book bindings) and Iain S. Bain (on gift book illustrations). It has separate checklists of English and American gift books and annuals; Faxon overlooks some gift books noted by Thompson, and vice versa.

Hitchcock, Frederick H. THE BUILDING OF A BOOK. New York: The Grafton Press [1906] This volume provides an overview of the details of publishing and book manufacture in the second half of the nineteenth century in America, and the chapters on the various engraving processes are excellent firsthand descriptions.

Kaser, David, ed. THE COST BOOK OF CAREY & LEA, 1825‑1838. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press [1963] This record of Carey & Lea's publishing activities provides an incredibly detailed behind‑the‑scenes peak at the finances and logistics involved in producing the seven volumes of THE ATLANTIC SOUVENIR (pp. 275‑84). Besides offering this insight into gift book publishing, this volume also contains the original publishing records for many of Dickens' earliest American editions, the first American editions of Jane Austen, some works by Cooper, and the first American editions of FRANKENSTEIN and THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME. Unfortunately, the costbooks of Carey & Hart, publishers of THE GIFT are unpublished, but Wolf quotes liberally from their records, supplying a few details.

Krupp, Andrea, and Jennifer W. Rosner. "Pre‑Ornamented Bookcloth on Nineteenth Century Cloth Case Bindings." The Papers of the Bibliographical Society 94:2 (June 2000), pp. 176‑96. This is the first study to focus on this kind of cloth which was used only from 1835 to 1846. THE BOSTON BOOK for 1837 was the only gift book to make use of pre‑ornamented cloth, but such an example is just one more piece of evidence showing the willingness of gift book publishers to try new technologies and methods to keep their product looking current (and their costs down).

Lehmann‑Haupt, Hellmut, ed. BOOKBINDING IN AMERICA, THREE ESSAYS. Portland: Southworth‑Anthoensen Press, 1941. The essay by Joseph W. Rogers ("The Rise of American Edition Binding," pp. 131‑185b) is of primary interest for information on gift books, and the illustrations of cloth types and the machinery used are helpful. This book was reprinted by Bowker in 1967.

McLean, Ruari. VICTORIAN PUBLISHERS' BOOK‑BINDINGS IN CLOTH & LEATHER. Berkeley: University of California Press [1973] McLean has authored several lavishly illustrated surveys of Victorian bookbindings, and all are recommended reading. This volume is the only one of his works to include most of the major binding styles used by gift book publishers.

Miller, Edwin H. "New Year's Day Gift Books in the Sixteenth Century." Studies in Bibliography 15 (1962), pp. 233‑41. Miller documents the earliest books printed for the specific purpose of gift‑giving.

Morris, Ellen K., and Edward S. Levin. THE ART OF PUBLISHER'S BOOKBINDINGS, 1815‑1915. Los Angeles: William Dailey, 2000. This superbly illustrated survey of publisher's binding styles traces their evolution and illustrates several gift books.

Papantonio, Michael. EARLY AMERICAN BOOKBINDINGS FROM THE COLLECTION OF MICHAEL PAPANTONIO. Worcester: American Antiquarian Society, 1985. Second Edition. Michael Papantonio was co‑owner of the Seven Gables Bookshop (1946‑1979) with John S. Van E. Kohn (d. 1976), and assembled a collection of nearly 700 seventeenth, eighteenth, and early nineteenth century American bookbindings. Several gift books are illustrated (some stamped bindings are misdescribed as embossed) and the checklist of his collection reveals he owned others that are not illustrated here. A similar catalogue of bindings from the collection of Frederick Maser (BOOKBINDING IN AMERICA, 1680‑1910, Bryn Mawr College Library, 1983) includes only one gift book.

Sadleir, Michael. THE EVOLUTION OF PUBLISHER'S BINDING STYLES, 1770‑1900. London & New York: Constable & Co., 1930. This survey is concerned almost exclusively with the evolution of cloth binding styles rather than leather, but provides technical and historical information on several styles used on American gift books. A facsimile of this original edition was published by The Garland Publishing Co. in 1990.

Tanselle, G. Thomas. "Book‑Jackets, Blurbs, and Bibliographers." The Library 26:2 (June, 1971), pp. 91‑134. This article comprises a small book by itself, reviews all previous research on early dust jackets, illustrates examples of historical importance (including the 1833 KEEPSAKE), includes a chronological checklist of surviving jackets through 1900, as well as author and publisher indexes. The late Dick Oinonen's 1984 auction catalogue of the Ken Leach collection of nineteenth century American dust jackets expanded Tanselle's checklist by several hundred examples and pushed back the date for the earliest known American jacket from 1865 to 1848, but it included no gift books in dust jackets.

Thompson, Ralph. AMERICAN LITERARY ANNUALS & GIFT BOOKS, 1825‑1865. New York: H. W. Wilson, 1936. This is the standard guide to American gift books, with detailed studies of the economics of their manufacture, their literary content, the illustrations, entire chapters on several of the major gift annuals, a checklist of all known American examples, and an index. Thompson overlooks a few gift books noted by Faxon, or he perhaps did not consider them true gift books. Both Faxon and Thompson overlook some gift books that do fit their definitions. The Archon Books reprint of 1967 is not difficult to find.

Tryon, Warren S., and William Charvat. THE COST BOOKS OF TICKNOR AND FIELDS AND THEIR PREDECESSORS, 1832‑1858. New York: Bibliographical Society, 1949. Like Kaser's later study of Carey & Lea's records, this detailed ledger of Ticknor & Fields' publishing business provides an inside view of their activities. Besides their gift books, this ledger reflects the publishing histories of such landmark works as Thoreau's WALDEN, Hawthorne's SCARLET LETTER, Holmes' PUERPERAL FEVER, and hundreds of works by other authors, major and minor.

Wolf, Edwin. FROM GOTHIC WINDOWS TO PEACOCKS: AMERICAN EMBOSSED LEATHER BINDINGS, 1825‑1855. Philadelphia: The Library Company of Philadelphia, 1990. Edwin Wolf 2nd was first curator and then librarian of the Library Company for more than three decades and published this exhaustive study just months before his death in 1991. Wolf traces every known embossed design used in America during this period and identifies every known use of those designs. Wolf also provides technical background on the process, a study of the die‑sinkers, identification of many of the binders involved, and several handy indexes. Generously illustrated, and essential to any study of American gift books. A similar but shorter study by Eleanore Jamieson of English embossed bindings was published in 1972, and is likewise useful in the study of English gift books.

The article was published in Firsts and on It is presented here by permission of the author.

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