This post is dedicated to those of us who are tempted to give an Amazon gift card for a present. Here is a hint on how to make a gift book into a family heirloom.
My Gift Book
Our family frequently gave gift books for Christmas presents. My mother and father almost always wrote inscriptions in the front of the book and dated and signed them. I treasure those gifts, particularly this one which probably accounted in large part for my life long fascination with Greece and the culture of the Golden age. I read that book so much that the hard cover is long gone. Here is the title page, and the very treasured inscription written by my father, Christmas 1947 when I was eight years and nine months old.
Grandma Vera’s Gift Book
What a nice surprise it was to discover that this tradition went back two generations before me. I found books that my great-grandmother, Harriet Morgan Stout gave to my grandmother and to my great-uncle–writing an inscription in each. Even more fun, my Grandmother, Vera Stout (Anderson) did what many young people do–she “wrote” on the pages. The inscription indicates that she would have been six years old when she received this book, but the book seems a bit young for a six-year-old, and she surely would have known better than to draw in a book by that age!
The book is beautifully illustrated and teaches us much about how children dressed and what they played with. Some things have not changed–skipping rope and blowing bubbles. Some toys have disappeared–whipping tops and hoops.
Great-Uncle Will’s Gift Book
Vera’s older brother William Morgan Stout (Willy or Will), received a very different book for Christmas 1886 when he was 13. The inscription is in the handwriting of my great-grandmother, but my mother added the “age 13”.
Review of Davy and the Goblin in American Magazine advertising section January 1888.
This is a very odd book. The author, Charles Carryl, was known as the Lewis Carroll of America–writing humorous fantasy, perhaps as an escape from his day job as a stock broker.
This book published in 1894, obviously aims to cash in on the popularity of Alice In Wonderland which was first published in 1865, and continued to be a best seller. Carryl tells some original stories, like Davy’s confrontation with the giant Badorful, but he also riffs on familiar tales like Sinbad the Sailor, Jack and the Bean Stalk, and Robinson Crusoe.
The illustrations are black and white, but surely would appeal to an adventure-minded young man. Thirteen year olds today might find this a bit young for them, but I can imagine my great-uncle “Willy” eating it up.
I post this in the hope that it will influence you not only to give books to family members, but always, ALWAYS, write the date, their name, an inscription and your name. It will enhance the value of the book in the century or two to come. Amazon gift certificates may disappear in the cloud, but books will stick around for a long, long time.