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