Special Collections & Archives Blog

A Token of My Affection: 19th Century Christmas Annuals

Tuesday, December 9, 2014 2:19 pm

christmas annuals token 1839 presentation page

Presentation page from the 1839 edition of The Token: A Christmas and New Years Present

If you were a holiday shopper in the 1830s, one item on your list might well have been an annual gift book—an anthology of illustrations, poems, stories, and essays, in an affordable but decorative binding.

Several examples of 19th century holiday gift books are now on exhibit in the ZSR Library Special Collections & Archives Research Room (ZSR 629). A Token of My Affection: 19th Century Christmas Annuals will remain on view through January.

christmas annuals keepsake 1832 mary shelley

Added engraved title page from The Keepsake (London) for 1832. From ZSR Library Special Collections & Archives.

christmas annuals garland 1831

Color lithograph title page from The Garland, or Token of Friendship (Boston) for 1851. From ZSR Library Special Collections & Archives.

Gift annuals became popular in the early 19th century, as mechanization of the printing and binding processes began to make books in general more affordable.

Publishers appealed to gift-buyers by packaging their books in decorated paper, silk, or leather bindings.

christmas annuals token with box

This copy of The Token for 1828 was bound in green printed paper over boards and issued in a protective cardboard slipcase. From ZSR Library Special Collections & Archives.

christmas annuals1848 cover

Leather binding on an 1848 Leaflets of Memory annual (Philadelphia). From ZSR Library Special Collections & Archives.

ZSR Special Collections holds a complete run of one of the most popular American annuals, The Token: A Christmas and New Years Present. Published in Boston, it was produced by Samuel Griswold Goodrich, a prolific author and publisher better known by his pseudonym, Peter Parley.

christmas annuals tokens spines

Samuel Goodrich’s The Token: A Christmas and New Years Present, 1836 and 1840 issues. From ZSR Library Special Collections & Archives.

The Token, and its competitors in England and America, sought to appeal to both gift-buyers and young readers. Most of the early 19th century annuals are eclectic anthologies that strike a balance between educational and morally uplifting content intended to satisfy parents and other elders, and sentimental or mildly sensational stories that would keep the recipients entertained—and asking for next year’s volume.

poe purloined letter

Edgar Allan Poe’s story “The Purloined Letter” was first published in The Gift for 1845, a Philadelphia annual. From ZSR Library Special Collections & Archives.

The contents often included original contributions from authors like Edgar Allan Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Mary Shelley, and Harriet Beecher Stowe.

christmas annuals mary shelley

“The Dream,” which appeared in The Keepsake for 1832, was one of many short stories that Mary Shelley wrote for gift annuals. From ZSR Library Special Collections & Archives.

The heyday of the holiday annual anthology was the 1820s-1840s. The genre persisted throughout the 19th century, but later annuals had to compete with other types of gift books and with a flood of non-holiday-specific publications timed for the Christmas market.

mrs lirriper 1863

Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol (1843) is of course his most famous holiday story. But Dickens published many other Christmas books, including an annual special issue of his magazine All the Year Round. From ZSR Library Special Collections & Archives.

beetons fortunate island

This 1880 annual from London publisher Samuel Orchart Beeton featured contributions from Max Adeler and others. The 1887 Beeton’s Annual would become famous for introducing Sherlock Holmes in “A Study in Scarlet.” From ZSR Library Special Collections & Archives.

Some gift annuals were published by religious, social, or philanthropic organizations. These served the dual purpose of raising funds for the organizations and for spreading their messages.

christmas annuals temperance

The Sons of Temperance of North America published the National Temperance Offering as an annual gift book. This issue, in typical mid-century decorated cloth, is from 1851. From the ZSR Library Special Collections & Archives.

Illustrations were an important part of the gift book package. Early in the 19th century, the new technique of steel engraving allowed for a high level of detail even in small illustrations. In the 1840s, the invention of color lithography made it possible for the first time to mass produce color illustrations.

christmas annuals1848 lithograph title page

Color lithograph illustration from Leaflets of Memory: An Illuminated Annual (Philadelphia, 1848). From ZSR Library Special Collections & Archives.

christmas annuals pears ad

Advertisers also took advantage of the new technique for printing in color. This ad for Pears soap, which doubles as a “test for colour blindness,” appeared in the 1848 Leaflets of Memory. From ZSR Library Special Collections & Archives.

Few of the holiday gift books in ZSR Special Collections are in pristine condition. Most have been well-read, and many bear traces of their original owners.

christmas annuals bookmarks

Bookmarks found in 19th century gift annuals from the ZSR Library Special Collections. One is crocheted lace, the other is made from human hair.

christmas annuals token inscription mary davis

Mary W. Davis of Newton, Mass. used the endpapers of her copy of The Token for 1830 to show off her considerable skill with a pen. From ZSR Library Special Collections & Archives.

girls own annual crayoned illustration

A reader of The Girl’s Own Annual (London, 1888) applied her crayons to many of the volume’s engraved illustrations. From ZSR Library Special Collections & Archives.

Those of us with reading material of any kind on our holiday wish lists can’t help but feel a kinship with our fellow book enthusiasts from the 19th century and their quirky, charming, and well-thumbed gifts!

For more information about the exhibit, contact Special Collections & Archives.

Rare Book of the Month: Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus, by Mary Shelley

Friday, October 8, 2010 3:53 pm

Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus. London: Lackington, Hughes, Harding, Mavor, & Jones, 1818.

“I had worked hard for nearly two years, for the sole purpose of infusing life into an inanimate body. For this I had deprived myself of rest and health. I had desired it with an ardour that far exceeded moderation; but now that I had finished, the beauty of the dream vanished, and breathless horror and disgust filled my heart.”

Mary Shelley‘s tale of the chemist Victor Frankenstein and his nameless creature is considered by many to be the first science fiction novel. The story of the brilliant but overreaching Frankenstein and his misunderstood monster has fascinated readers and critics for nearly 200 years.

The origin of Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus is one of the more famous stories in English literature. The 18-year-old Mary had fled to the continent with her married lover, the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. They spent the summer of 1816 near Geneva, where they met the already infamous Lord Byron and his personal physician and traveling companion John William Polidori. The friends had been reading “some volumes of ghost stories, translated from the German and French” and discussing recent experiments by Erasmus Darwin and others with galvanism-the reanimation of dead tissue by electrical current-when one rainy night Byron challenged them each to come up with a ghost story. Mary was the only one to complete her story, the first version of Frankenstein.

As Mary later described it, the story came to her in a vivid waking dream:

“I saw the pale student of unhallowed arts kneeling beside the thing he had put together. I saw the hideous phantasm of a man stretched out, and then, on the working of some powerful engine, show signs of life, and stir with an uneasy, half-vital motion. Frightful it must be; for supremely frightful would be the effect of any human endeavor to mock the stupendous mechanism of the Creator of the world.”

In the preface to the 1831 edition, Mary claimed that she intended her story to be “but of a few pages… a short tale.” But Percy Shelley encouraged her to develop Frankenstein into a full-length novel and seek publication. The manuscript, completed in 1817, was first rejected by Byron’s publisher John Murray, but eventually published on January 1, 1818 by the smaller firm of Lackington, Hughes, Harding, Mavor & Jones.

The first edition was issued in three volumes, a form that was becoming the standard for 19th century novels. Mary dedicated the book to her estranged father, the radical philosopher William Godwin.

Mary Shelley’s “hideous progeny” was immediately popular with the reading public. Imitations and dramatic adaptations appeared within a few years of the first edition.

Critical reviews were mixed. The first edition was published anonymously, which led to much speculation about the author’s identity. Even after Mary’s name appeared on the title pages of later editions some readers refused to believe that the book had been written by a young woman. Various critics have argued that Percy Shelley edited the published version of Frankenstein so substantially that he should be considered the true author. But recent studies of the earliest manuscripts, now in possession of the Bodleian Library, vindicate Mary’s assertion that “I certainly did not owe the suggestion of one incident, nor scarcely of one train of feeling, to my husband.”

A second edition of Frankenstein was published in 1831, after the death of Percy Shelley. The 1831 text was considerably altered by Mary Shelley, and until recently it was the most frequently read and reprinted version of the novel.

Wake Forest’s first edition of Frankenstein is part of the Charles H. Babcock collection.


Categories
ABCs of Special Collections
Collection News
Digital Projects
Exhibits
General
News & Events
Preservation
Rare Book of the Month
University Archives
What Are You Working On?
Tags
a day in the life of a librarian American Indians American Revolution archives Arthur Conan Doyle Baptist book repair workshops botany Charles Dickens Christmas detective fiction Documentary Film Edgar Allan Poe Elizabeth Blackwell Engraving gift books Harold Hayes herbal home movie day illustrations Ireland James Joyce John Charles McNeill John White Laurence Stallings Mary Shelley Maya Angelou medieval manuscripts poetry preservation mold programs Rare Book of the Month Rare Books Roanoke Shakespeare Sherlock Holmes Special Collections Strand Magazine Theodor deBry Thomas Hariot Travel Narratives Venice W.J. Cash wake forest Writers' Lives
Archives
December 2014
November 2014
October 2014
September 2014
August 2014
July 2014
June 2014
May 2014
April 2014
March 2014
February 2014
January 2014
December 2013
November 2013
October 2013
September 2013
August 2013
July 2013
June 2013
May 2013
April 2013
March 2013
February 2013
January 2013
December 2012
November 2012
October 2012
September 2012
August 2012
July 2012
June 2012
May 2012
April 2012
March 2012
February 2012
December 2011
November 2011
October 2011
September 2011
August 2011
July 2011
June 2011
May 2011
April 2011
March 2011
February 2011
January 2011
December 2010
November 2010
October 2010
September 2010
August 2010
June 2010
May 2010
April 2010
March 2010
December 2009
November 2009
April 2009
March 2009
February 2009
October 2008
September 2008
July 2008
April 2008
January 2008
December 2007
November 2007
October 2007
Subscribe
Entries
Comments

Powered by WordPress.org, protected by Akismet. Blog with WordPress.com.