December 8th, 2014
Blog post by Stewart Plein, Rare Book Librarian.
As the holiday season approaches, let’s take a look back at gift books from the rare book collection in the West Virginia and Regional History Center. These books were designed to capitalize on the holiday season or they were given as holiday gifts.
The Jazz Era was in full swing when Booth Tarkington published Beasley’s Christmas Party in 1909. The cover, above, in a beautiful rich red cloth with brilliant gold titles, displays a design of holly leaves and berries. An illustration inside shows a Jazz Age gentleman dancing a jig in front of the Christmas tree, his outfit complete with patent leather slippers and spats!
Not far behind was Zona Gale’s novel, Christmas: A Story, published in 1912. Gale would become the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize in 1921 for her drama, Miss Lulu Betts.
One of the first authors on the Best Sellers List, which was established in 1895, was recognized for his “local color” stories set in the mountains of Appalachia. Christmas Eve on Lonesome by John Fox, Jr. entered the holiday gift book market in 1904. Thanks to a small inscription on an endpaper, we know the book was given as a gift the same year.
With the holiday season in mind, a snowy winter scene is pictured on the cover of Kate Douglas Wiggin’s The Romance of the Christmas Card, in 1916. Light from the windows makes the scene that much more inviting to someone on their journey home.
Uncle Noah’s Christmas Party, by Leona Dalrymple, has beautiful decorations edging the story on every page, making it a pleasant gift to receive in 1914.
Just as today, books of all kinds were given as gifts. A child received this copy of Joel Chandler Harris’ Mr. Rabbit at Home from his aunt and uncle in 1896.
What books will you be giving to loved ones, friends and family this holiday season?