Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year!: The Gift Book Annual and the Blooks They Inspired

Between 1823 and 1861, lavish gift books were produced as gifts for the New Year in England and later in America. Their popularity and success as gifts for children and adults, caused a spin-off of a group of book objects made in their emulation. These objects include photograph cases, sewing kits and trinket boxes. The faux gift books were made in as many decorative binding styles and techniques as the real books. Examples are lacquer bindings, gold-tooled leather bindings, painted paper bindings and stamped cloth bindings. In general, the names of their makers are not known, but there are some exceptions.

New Year gift books had their roots in the elegant French and German almanacs and friendship books that were characterized by their beautiful bindings, a variety of contemporary literary material and high-quality steel engravings. These relatively expensive books were marketed to middle-class families and their publishers took great care to ensure that their appearance complemented the library, parlor, and boudoir. The gift books were given sentimental titles such as Friendship’s Offering, The Gem, The Token, Forget Me not, Keepsake, and Literary Souvenir. Many innovations in bookbinding technology were developed for and tested on the literary annuals. Early volumes were bound in colored, glazed paper covers, printed with decorative motifs. Later volumes were bound in silk fabric and decorative leather bindings.
Sewing Kit
The Gem
English, c. 1840
Leather, silk moiré, book board portfolio with flaps
11.6 x 6.6 x 2.0 cm (4.6 x 2.6 x 0.8 in)
Dubansky Collection


Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas Blook-Style

I almost let Christmas pass, but the spirit (as far as blooks go) entered and I'd thought I'd take a moment to show you some of the classic Christmas blooks. First Noma lights. This is one of a number of brightly colored Noma Christmas lights in book-style boxes. Noma was an American company best known for making Christmas lights. It was once the largest manufacturer of holiday lighting in the world, but since 1967 has existed only as a licensed trademark. 

Who doesn't remember or still know the wonder of Life Savers Sweet Story Books? This ad represents the very first Sweet Story box, marketed over a number of years, before the design changed and was modernized. This box from around 1947, is designed in the style of a silver fine binding with strap-work. Later boxes were more graphic and less historically-inspired. What is so amazing is that the Story Books are still being made today by a number of candy manufactures. They are much less bookish than the original faux fine binding.  

There are many, many Christmas cards in book form, mostly made in the 1940s and 1950s. I have at least thirty of them and they are very imaginative, and often use book puns in their messages.
And of course, there are ornaments. Often, they are made as teacher's gifts or just for booklovers in general. There are book string lights too and animated Christmas props. This is just the tip of the Christmas blook iceberg. I can't say that I've seen any Chanukah blooks, but I do have a plush stuffed Torah. 

Warm regards to everyone and a very happy New Year! 

Friday, December 12, 2014

Bible Book Blocks

Educational Device. Book of Books. Sixty-six books of the Bible, wood block set, missing book-shaped slip-case.

I wonder if any of you have seen book Bible block sets before. After collecting book objects for many years, I'm just starting to see Bible blocks emerge as a genre of book object. To date, I've seen approximately five variations. The sets I have seen are both handmade and manufactured (and patented). All are wood, some with printed paper covers and are stored in wood boxes that double for bookshelves. They are part of the tradition of teaching children to memorize the sixty-six books of the Bible. I don't know why it is important to memorize the books, especially if the book themselves are at hand, but I can see that it is a traditional tool  for Christian education. Faux books of the Bible are still ingrained in our culture. For example, I saw a website that shows Bible book covers that can  be attached to cereal boxes and used in Bible book memorization games. 

The Block Book Library seen below is a commercial set from the collection of the Museum of Play (Strong Museum) in Rochester, New York.

Evidence of an ongoing tradition of Bible blocks, repurposing cereal boxes.