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American Literary Annuals and Gift Books, 1825-1865

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Introduction : American Literary Annuals and Gift Books, 1825-1865


In 1825, the Philadelphia publishing house of Carey & Lea began work upon a book called The Atlantic Souvenir. An editor was hired to gather short stories, essays, and poems; the members of the firm themselves set out to find suitable illustrations. Good paper, a specially-designed binding, and neat cardboard slip-cases were ordered. By December 1825 the finished product was ready for the bookstores. It was, as the title-page declared, a gift for Christmas and the New Year.

So well was the volume received that a second of the name was immediately undertaken. Once more contributions from writers and artists were solicited, once more was pressed into service the skill of printer and binder. But other publishers, meanwhile, were not asleep. Soon there were rival volumes, eventually as many in one holiday season as thirty. Not until the Civil war years did gift book popularity fade away.

The idea of bringing together at annual intervals the best obtainable prose and verse came from Europe. But in the United States it was applied with little regard for foreign precedent, and the American phase is in its own right important. Between the covers of American gift books, at a time when the popular monthly magazine was but beginning its career, appeared some of the best of contemporary literature and contemporary art. Few more revealing records of the years 1825-1865 have come down to us.

It would be difficult to overestimate the effect of The Atlantic Souvenir and its fellows. Their publishers often profited handsomely. The contributing writers and artists were sometimes highly paid. But the significant effect, obviously, was the more general one – that upon the reading public, upon those who received the books as marks of Christmas regard, upon the families who leafed them thru on rainy afternoons or wintry evenings. For nearly a generation the resplendent gift book was among the most treasured of personal belongings. Unlike other volumes, it was not, once read, forgotten. Thruout the year it lay upon the parlor table, an ornament awaiting re-examination in an idle hour. The following extract from one of the gift books themselves is probably a fair picture of their reception:

"To describe the delight of Amelia on receiving this elegant present, is impossible. She spread a clean handkerchief over her lap before she drew the book from its case, that it might not be soiled in the slightest degree, and she removed to a distance from the fire lest the cover should be warped by the heat. After she had eagerly looked all through it, she commenced again, and examined the plates with the most minute attention. She then showed them to her little brother and sister."1

Strictly speaking, The Atlantic Souvenir 1826 was not the first such American work. The Philadelphia Souvenir had been projected some months before Carey & Lea began their labors,2 and a few days before The Atlantic Souvenir actually appeared, a similar collection had been placed on sale.3 But in the real meaning of the term Carey & Lea originated the American fashion. How did it happen that the start was made?

During the early decades of the nineteenth century, more people than ever began to read. American newspaper circulation increased between 1810 and 1828 nearly twice as rapidly as the population.4 Weekly, monthly, and quarterly magazines entered in 1825 upon what has been called a golden age of periodicals.5 The application of steam power to the printing press and the perfecting of the stereotype plate made possible the production of periodicals at relatively low prices. A large share of the people, moreover, because of improving economic conditions and increasing literacy, were turning to another sort of reading. Novelists like Cooper and Scott were achieving an unprecedented following, and even poetry was generally popular, as a glance at contemporary newspapers will show. It was to be expected, therefore, that sooner or later an American publisher would attempt an American version of the gift books fashionable in Great Britain.

Great Britain had had yearly volumes of a sort since the turn of the century, but not until 1822 did Rudolph Ackermann of London issue what seems to be the first of the English gift books, The Forget Me Not 1823. The first literary annual in any language was apparently the Almanach des muses, begun in Paris in 1765. Five years later came a German imitation, the Musen-almanach 1770, edited by Heinrich Boie in Göttingen, and subsequently similar series were started in other European cities, in England and America, and even in India and the Antipodes. The Bengal Annual appeared in Calcutta in the 1830’s, and Sydney eventually read The Australian Souvenir.6

Whatever its nationality, the literary annual or gift book was an adaptation of the ancient and familiar almanac. A yearly publication with calendars and weather forecasts, the almanac easily lent itself to less matter-of-fact usage, and no great stretch of the imagination is required to understand how, with the introduction of pictures, stories, and poems, there developed the ornamental gift book of the nineteenth century. Nor is it difficult to see why gift books as a class are often called "ladies’ books." The evolution of the almanac into a decorative literary periodical was the result of an increasing regard for feminine taste. Such titles as Almanach des dames or Damenkalender, often found in French and German gift book bibliographies, were not illogically chosen.

The strength of the fashion in the United States may be simply explained. By 1830 the country had become more prosperous than before. National wealth was rising, and while personal riches were beyond general reach, there had been achieved a relative well-being. American peace and plenty were already widely enough credited to attract large numbers of immigrants. The population grew with surprising speed.

Among the people the dominant element was middle class, innocent, as a rule, of the habits of a leisured aristocracy. But some few were becoming rich, and many more confidently expected to be so. For these there was a natural inclination to the arts and letters, to those interests traditionally associated with wealth and social position.

National pride as well as personal ambition spurred the search for "culture." Foreign critics had sneered at American barbarity and crudeness, and only the most ardent patriot could deny that the sneers were in some degree justified. Could not those who had thrown off a political yoke escape also the intellectual, and thereby prove their complete independence? Sydney Smith’s now-famous query was not without effect. Who could honestly argue, moreover, that the Hudson highlands were less worthy of the artist or the poet than the hills of Westmoreland?

There had been, of course, even before the Revolution an American culture. By 1825 and the beginning of the gift book vogue, a few American writers had won wide repute, and the plastic arts, music, and drama of a sort were not unknown. But the country was new and the social ancestry of the people a disadvantage. As late as 1831 conditions were such that an American critic openly deplored them:

"A taste for the fine arts [said he] is by no means extensively prevalent among us, and needs every artificial encouragement to raise it to its proper rank. It is only by bringing the fruits of their cultivation repeatedly into notice, persuading the community of their value by the demonstrative evidence of ocular proof, that such a taste can be fostered."7

The appearance in 1825 of The Atlantic Souvenir, therefore, was opportune, and it is not strange that imitators soon were many.Here were books ideally suited to an aspiring middle class. They appealed to the eye and the heart rather than to the mind; they were handsome and costly; they were "artistic" and "refined." They met a demand for "culture" and showed the purchaser that his country could produce – and would support – its own painters, engravers, and authors. American presses could no less than the British turn out fine typography finely bound. America could no less than Europe understand matters beyond the making of money.

It was only logical that cultural ambition should be symbolized by "ladies’ books." Of the sexes, the feminine was traditionally the more interested in spiritual affairs – especially during the pre-Civil war decades when, as one writer has put it, "masculinity was expected to distinguish itself by a lack of exterior polish."9 The gift book coincided, moreover, with the American woman’s emergence into the world of letters. "The first literary work exclusively devoted to women ever published in America" is dated 1828.10 A few years earlier a critic had acknowledged the quantity and quality of "female literature" and its "decided and important influence over the public mind."11 In 1836 what claimed to be the first anthology of poetry penned by feminine hands came from the press.12

It was logical, furthermore, that the gift books should be highly sentimental and exotic. Lords and ladies, far-off lands, and a somewhat impossibly glorious national history were normal products of romanticism as well as a means of transcending middle class existence. Tender and genteel verse satisfied emotional longings, unrealistic engravings the visual. Not until the gift book fashion was about at an end did realism or contemporaneity periodically intrude.

By their very nature gift books could not survive the spirit which lifted them to popularity.13 As soon as public taste began to turn from the imaginary and the ideal to the actual there no longer existed that detachment to which a publication printed at yearly intervals of necessity catered. Several attempts were made to conform to the changing taste. Organizations devoted to antislavery, temperance, and general benevolence submitted their principles in gift book guise during the 1840’s and 1850’s. Occasional volumes like The Lily of the Valley (1851-1859) or Our Day (1848) contain realistic discussions of contemporary problems. Yet the phrase "didactic gift book" is a contradiction in terms. Social questions were best argued without elaborate bindings or engravings; these ornamentations, in fact, had no place in serious debate. When political and social inquiry began to spread, the romantic enthusiasm expressed by the annuals was on the wane.

Competition from monthly magazines, on the other hand, robbed the gift books of their less serious readers. Periodicals like The KnickerbockerGodey’s, and Graham’s first appeared in the 1830’s and 1840’s. Subscribers to these might for the price of a single literary annual receive twelve illustrated collections of stories and poems – also, in some cases, a potpourri of literary gossip, news notes, and good advice. Finally, it cannot be denied that novelty eventually palls, that every fashion sooner or later loses its following. The gift books held theirs for more than thirty years.


E.L., "The Souvenir," in Affection’s Gift 1832, p. 55.1

2 See The Port Folio, XIX, 25-9 (January 1825); XIX, 245-6 (March 1825). John Grand-Carteret, Les almanachs Français, Paris, 1896, p. 358, lists "Almanac Américain pour l’année 1802. A Philadelphie (1802 et suite)" but adds that this series was published in Paris.

Le Souvenir. See below, p. 156.

Cf. S.N.D. North, History and Present Condition of the Newspaper and Periodical Press, Washington [n.d., 1881?] p. 45, 47.

5 See Frank L. Mott, A History of American Magazines 1741-1850, New York, 1930. p. 341.

7 The Atlas, III, 261 (April 30, 1831).

8 The graph on p. 167 shows the number of important American gift books published each year.

9 Carl R. Fish, The Rise of the Common Man, New York, 1927, p. 140

10 This is Sarah J. Hale’s somewhat exaggerated statement concerning her Ladies’ Magazine (see Ruth E. Finley, The Lady of Godey’s, Philadelphia, 1931, p. 39).

11 The North American Review, XXIII, 369 (October 1826).

12 Selections from Female Poets, a Present for Ladies, Boston, 1836.

13 Annual miscellanies have not altogether lost favor; c.f. The American Caravan, published in New York annually 1927-1931. Literary almanacs have been issued in Europe within this generation: for example, the Viennese Frauenzimmer Almanach 1922, 1923. There are, moreover, certain recent British gift books, among them The New Keepsake, London, 1931, which contains original contributions by 24 English writers. But volumes such as these are rare.



The proprietors of The Atlantic Souvenir, Henry C. Carey and his brother-in-law Isaac Lea, were owners of one of the country’s largest publishing houses. They had been the American sponsors of at least one British gift book,1 and must have noted the sale in local bookstores of other such importations. Furthermore, some months before the American annual made its appearance, Mr. and Mrs. Carey went to England to see Mrs. Carey’s brother, the well-known artist Charles Robert Leslie.2 Perhaps the publication of The Atlantic Souvenir was planned because thereby Leslie’s paintings might reach a large public. As it happened, Leslie was with one exception the most frequently patronized of the artists drawn upon for the series.

Whether or not family ties were involved, the scheme of which The Atlantic Souvenir was an embodiment quickly attracted Americans. Carey & Lea’s annual increased in circulation in a few years from 2,000 copies to over 10,000, altho the more plainly bound sold for as much as $2.50, the more elaborate for $3.75 and $4.50.3 Before the gift book fashion spent itself, over a thousand different volumes more or less similarly conceived were issued in the United States, ranging in format from muslin-bound 32mos at 37-1/2 cents to magnificent folios at $20. Samuel G. Goodrich’s The Token appeared in the Autumn of 1827, and with its second issue, of 4,000 volumes, it had already achieved a reputation.4 The handsome annual called The Gift, upon which Carey & Hart expended much time and money, had for some years a circulation of 7,500.5 Others were probably as widely distributed.

British gift books sold surprisingly well in America. One London publisher reported that his wares were in greater demand in the United States and in India than at home;6 the American import for 1829 was estimated at over 40,000 copies; and it was rumored that nearly 9,000 copies of the London Literary Souvenir 1830 had been bought in Philadelphia alone.But most of the gift books purchased by Americans were surely of local origin, since national pride figured largely in their acceptance. As for American gift books sold in Great Britain, they could hardly have been many. Britons had little affection for "colonial" arts.8

The names given by American publishers to gift books were usually of the sort used abroad: "Memorial," "Souvenir," "Offering," "Keepsake," "Remember Me," or "Rose," "Amaranth," "Forget Me Not," "Violet," "Crocus," "Snow Drop," and so on. Subtitles explained the function: "A Gift of Friendship for All Seasons," "A Token of Affection for the Holidays," "A Christmas and New Year’s Offering." Bindings were ordinarily of leather, stamped or embossed – occasionally of paper, silk, or velvet. As a special attraction about 1850 varnished papier-maché, inlaid with irregular bits of mother-of-pearl, was used.9 Common were decorative end-papers and a presentation plate which might be inscribed with the donor’s name and his sentiments toward the recipient. Steel, copper, or wood engravings – occasionally lithographs – illustrated the text, or served as pegs on which to hang the text. Press-work, paper, and type varied with the purse of the publisher and the market contemplated, but in the main American gift books were by far the finest books the country had produced. Their elegance was generally approved by contemporary critics.

"Let any one compare [said one commentator] the neatness, the strength, the beauty, in all its features, of one of these volumes, with the loose, misshapen, sorry tomes, which were issued, perhaps from the same shops, not a score of years ago; let him look at the engravings…and compare them with the sombre wood-cuts which were at great expense imported for us not a half-century back, and he will no longer doubt that not less to the luxuries of literature than to those of fashion and folly, may the arts look for encouragement."10

6 For further notes on foreign gift books, see below, p. 165.

To their publishers, gift books must have been for a time highly desirable manufactures. Volumes of "luxurious literature" (the phrase is Mrs. Lydia H. Sigourney’s), they were even less a necessity than most books, and purchasers were willing to pay a good price for the luxury involved. As in the case of other articles destined for a quality trade, the margin of profit was liberal. About 45,000 volumes of Carey & Hart’s Gift, for example, were issued in eight years, at an average manufacturing cost per copy of $1.25, and at an average retail price of about $3.50.11 During this period of the dollar’s greater purchasing power, new novels in paper binding could be had for 37-1/2 cents, in cloth for about three times as much.12 Even today, with a vastly increased population and a comparatively inexpensive dollar, 45,000 volumes at $3.50 each would not be absorbed very rapidly. It should not be forgotten, moreover, that The Gift was only one of the many annuals on the market at the time.

Not many firms were as concerned with the business as were Carey & Hart, who invested well over $100,000 in gift books between 1833 and 1848, as their records show, and probably few were as successful. Some two dozen other publishers sponsored at least six different series each – among them D. Appleton, G.P. Putnam, and J.C. Riker of New York; E.H. Butler, J.B. Lippincott, and H.F. Anners of Philadelphia; and Phillips & Sampson, T.H. Carter, and J. Buffum of Boston. A list of all American publishers of gift books would contain over 250 firm names – probably a generous share of the literary entrepreneurs active in this country during the pre-Civil war decades. Most of these firms were located in New England, and practically all were confined to the region north of Baltimore and east of the Alleghenies.

This fact of distribution is of course due to the greater age of the Eastern settlements and to their superior importance in commerce and industry. Yet if we regard the gift book as a fruit of the social spirit induced by a commercial America, it becomes evident that the fact had more than a historical and geographical basis. The South was traditionally the more stable section of the country, one in which the master class had long been in power. Altho gift books contain contributions by Southerners and as surely were bought by them, the average man in the South had less money, and consequently less cause to measure his cultural attainments. The middle class revolution had hardly affected the territory below Mason and Dixon’s line.

As for Westerners, they were busy establishing themselves on what had but recently been frontier land, too busy to bother greatly with gift book production. By two literary miscellanies, however, to say nothing of other fruits of such literary cities as Lexington and Cincinnati, Westerners revealed their Eastern origins and their underlying sympathy with New England and the Middle Atlantic states.13

More specific information may be had from an analysis of the volumes chosen for the catalog at the end of this book. Of about 125 publishers listed, 30 per cent were located in New York, 25 per cent in Boston, 20 per cent in Philadelphia. The remainder were scattered over the country in a score of provincial capitals. Of the New England and Middle Atlantic states, Vermont and New Jersey alone seem to have had no representatives. On the score of separate gift books issued, either singly or as volumes of a series, Boston was the center, followed closely by Philadelphia and New York.

The large number of publishers attracted by the demand for belles lettres and engravings makes it quite obvious that not all could prosper in the business, yet equally plain that under favorable circumstances a good profit was expected. For eighteen years, for instance, beginning in 1839, the Boston firm of A. Tompkins & B.B. Mussey (or related firms) issued The Rose of Sharon; that annual must have returned them some reward, even though a modern observer may wonder who would have wanted to buy more than one number of the series. That it was possible, however, to put together a satisfactory gift book at very little cost is shown by the papers of the publishers of The Liberty Bell;14 an issue of this series, which was as a rule plainly bound and illustrated with a frontispiece only, could be brought out for about $350. Here there were no editorial fees or payments to contributors, except in the form of a copy of the book. The undertaking was said to return in profits the sum invested.

With more ambitious gift books, the outlay and risk were much greater. S.G. Goodrich, long an editor of The Token, remarked that "it scarcely paid its expenses, and was a serious drawback upon my time and resources."15 Yet we need not take Goodrich too seriously. The Atlantic Souvenir 1830 brought Carey & Lea a gain of nearly 50 per cent; that for 1831 returned $4,700 in profits; that for 1832 $4,200.16 Then Goodrich bought the name and good-will of The Atlantic Souvenir, and combined the Philadelphia annual with his own Token. No doubt he paid a nice sum for the privilege, and no doubt he thought his money well invested. For a time, at least, The Token was a financial success.

The figures concerning one of the leading American annuals, The Gift, taken from the records of Carey & Hart, are probably typical of the proportionate costs of the better American gift books, erring from the average, if at all, on the side of generosity to contributors. The first volume of The Gift was published in 1835, the last in 1844. There were no issues for 1838 or for 1841.

It will be seen from the table that the expense of binding was a major one and that the cost of the engravings exceeded that of the letterpress. The costs of other annuals containing original work, were it possible to discover them, would no doubt reveal much the same ratio.17  When the plates and letterpress were not especially prepared, as in The Literary Souvenir issued by Carey & Hart for 1844 and for 1845, the binding charges came to nearly 60 per cent of the total. If ever there were doubt as to which elements in a gift book attracted most purchasers, it should be dispelled by a realization of the comparative costs of production.

Size of Edition: 600; 1000 – 2d ed.
Cost of Literary Matter: $565; $200 – ed’l
Cost of Illustration (Approx.): $1600
Cost of Binding (Per Copy):$ .40
Net Cost: $8575

Size of Edition: 7000 – 18 mo; 500 – 8 vo
Cost of Literary Matter: $600; $200 – ed’l
Cost of Illustration (Approx.): $1700
Cost of Binding (Per Copy): $.40 – 18 mo; $1.50 – 8 vo
Net Cost: $9990

Size of Edition: 7000; 500 – 12 mo
Cost of Literary Matter: $764; $350 – ed’l
Cost of Illustration (Approx.): $1880
Cost of Binding (Per Copy): $ .40; $1.50 – 12 mo
Net Cost: $10310

Size of Edition: 7500
Cost of Literary Matter: $775; $350 – ed’l
Cost of Illustration (Approx.): $2280
Cost of Binding (Per Copy): $ .75
Net Cost: $12650

Size of Edition: 5000
Cost of Literary Matter: $545
Cost of Illustration (Approx.): $1625
Cost of Binding (Per Copy): $ .87-1/2
Net Cost: $8941

Size of Edition: 4000; 250 – 8 vo
Cost of Literary Matter: $505
Cost of Illustration (Approx.): $2000
Cost of Binding (Per Copy): $ .87-1/2; $2.00 – 8 vo
Net Cost: $5846

Size of Edition: 1844
Cost of Literary Matter: $670
Cost of Illustration (Approx.): $1450
Cost of Binding (Per Copy): ?
Net Cost: $4117

Size of Edition: 3500
Cost of Literary Matter: $712
Cost of Illustration (Approx.): $1725
Cost of Binding (Per Copy): ?
Net Cost: $4272

Since publishers devoted so great a sum to pictures and bindings, it is remarkable that the quality of the reading matter was as good as it was. The example of The Gift, moreover, may not be taken as an indication that in all – or even a majority – of American gift books as much as 10 per cent of the net cost was paid to writers. The Gift was far above the average.

Most gift book publishers simply appropriated from a variety of sources such prose and verse as struck their fancy. This practice was in keeping with others of the time; it is well known that Americans had no qualms about reprinting entire British volumes that promised to sell, and until 1891 and the granting of copyright to non-residents and non-citizens it was the fortunate English writer who received a shilling from the American sale of his work. Even American writers found their work pirated, despite the copyright act of 1790. The expense of publishing a gift book could be sensibly reduced by the use of old engravings and writings culled from periodicals or other books. The public apparently had a short memory and was not always exacting in its demands.

A further reduction of expense was achieved by the issuing of spurious gift books. The Magnolia 1836, for example, was in later years placed upon the market under a half-dozen different titles – a procedure by which the unethical publisher could present a "new" volume at comparatively little expense and unwary purchasers would acquire the same assortment of articles year after year. About 35 American firms indulged in this questionable business, producing nearly 150 titles of the kind.18 The most persistent were Leavitt & Allen of New York, Phillips, Sampson & Company of Boston, and Nafis & Cornish of New York. Occasionally the spuriousness was admitted, either by an outright statement in a new preface, or tacitly, by failure to change a date or some revealing remark in the original preface. But in most cases the deception was studied. Since the opening verses in The Amaranth 1847 were entitled "The Amaranth," they were replaced by some called "The Garland" when the volume was republished as The Garland 1848. The Lily of the Valley 1851, edited by Mrs. M.A. Livermore, was republished as Friendship’s Gift (1852), edited by Josephine Gilbert, altho no new editorial services could have been necessary.

The peculiar function of the gift book helps to explain the spurious volumes. Esteemed often for its appearance alone, and in most cases read (if at all) by the recipient, not the purchaser, the gift book was from the start open to such treatment. Most spurious issues are without date, but undoubtedly they began to appear only in the late 1840’s, after the more discerning elements among bookbuyers had begun to lose interest. They apparently were not sold at much lower prices than their originals, probably because the cost of letterpress and illustration was never so great as that of other items.19

Bona-fide publishers sometimes turned out these reissues in an effort to dispose of surplus sheets. But such a firm as Leavitt & Allen did little original publishing and seems to have been content to play a scavenger role.20 Stereotype plates could be bought at publishers’ trade sales; by 1860 Leavitt & Allen owned nearly forty gift books, including all those formerly published by Phillips, Sampson & Company, their one-time rival in the spurious trade.21 The firm sold these old collections, in shiny new bindings, thruout the following year,22 and as late as 1869 some were republished under the imprint of George A. Leavitt. By that time, however, gift books as a class had long been beneath critical notice.

Another attempt to profit by the fashion for illustrated volumes was begun about 1840, when publishers of certain religious magazines and ladies’ magazines collected either odd numbers of their periodicals, or a complete six-month or twelve-month run, and bound them as a gift book. There are at least 80 titles of this nature.23 Occasionally republication was frankly admitted, but more often it was concealed, and a new appropriate name adopted. In consequence, it is sometimes extremely difficult to determine which periodicals were thus republished, altho it is usually easy to recognize the republication, either from typography and arrangement of contents or by means of such phrases in the text as "continued from our last number." In addition, volume and number signatures are frequently found, or a non-continuous pagination showing that the "annual" had appeared in parts. These publications of course are of no intrinsic interest as gift books. Yet they show the strength of the fashion which the literary annuals began.

A more remarkable result of the vogue was that some publishers thought it shrewd to apply gift book titles, bindings, and illustrations to the work of one author or another. Perhaps 75 volumes of this kind appeared in the United States between 1825 and 1865, some merely reissues of books first published in ordinary format,24 some original editions.25 Since none is a miscellany, none has a place in this history. On the basis of their illustration, however, a few are interesting, especially because holiday editions of the writings of one person fell heir to a gift book tradition which lingered on for some years after the miscellany as a form had lost favor.

Other volumes quite unlike gift books except in format or title may be noted here. The Bouquet of Melody, a Musical Annual for 1850, published in New York, contains music and a few illustrations. Carey, Lea & Blanchard of Philadelphia issued The Geographical Annual for 1834, made up of maps and geographical data. Even more strange, perhaps, is The Manhattan Souvenir and New York Sketch Book for 1850, a volume of advertisements in which space was sold to merchants and manufacturers at $10 a page, and which was to be circulated, according to the preface, in hotels, railroad trains, ships, and California. This medium of information for consumers and buyers should be of interest to the advertising profession. For our purposes it is but an exotic.


1 Hommage aux dames, London, Letts; Philadelphia, H.C. Carey & I. Lea, 1825.

Cf. Charles Robert Leslie, Autobiographical Recollections, Boston, 1860, p. 66.

3 C & L MSS.

The Ariel, II, 150 (January 10, 1829), gives the size of the edition. The Critic, I, 60 (November 22, 1828) remarks that the edition "has been all disposed of, the publishers not having a single copy left."

5 C & H MSS.

6 See The American Review, IV, 407 (October 1846). The Art-Union, I, 171 ff. (November 1839), cites statistics of gift book publishing in Great Britain, pointing out, among other things, that The Forget Me Not at one time had a circulation of 20,000.

7 The Ariel, III, 151 (January 9. 1830), is responsible for the figure concerning Philadelphia. The magnitude of the importation from London is given in the Christian Register, VIII, 7 (January 10, 1820).

8 There seems to be but one American gift book with a British imprint: The Opal (1848). See below, p. 145.

9 This binding cost about twice as much as morocco; see list of "New Works" in Norton’s Literary Advertiser, I, 57 (October 15, 1851).

10 The North American Review, XXVIII, 484 (April 1829).

11 C & H MSS.

12 C & H MSS. show comparative publication costs in the 1830’s as follows: W.G. Simms’s Richard Hardis, 8,000 copies, $1,335; Bulwer’s Rienzi (pirated), 2,500 copies, $812.50; Marryat’s Midshipman Easy, 8,000 copies, $2,080 – including a fee of £100 to the author. An unspecified Bulwer work in an edition of 3,000 copies cost $5,250, of which $1,500 went for "copyright and use of plates" (British stereotype plates?).

13 The Western Souvenir 1829 and The Souvenir of the Lakes 1831, published in Cincinnati and Detroit, respectively, are typical gift books. None such seems to have come out of the South; The Charleston Book (1845) and The New-Orleans Book (1851) are rather local anthologies than original miscellanies.

14 See below, p. 82-90.

15 S.G. Goodrich, Recollections of a Lifetime, New York and Auburn, 1856, II, 264.

16 C & L MSS.

17 For further information of this sort, see below, p. 50, 79, 147.

18 Most of these appear in the check list under the title of their original issue. The spurious titles are included in the index.

19 Retail prices of 24 spurious gift books listed by Leavitt & Allen in the catalog of the Philadelphia Trade Sale of September 20, 1858, range from $2 for 16 mos to $5 for 12 mos.

20 John Grand-Carteret, Les almanachs Français, Paris, 1896, p. xxxi, mentions Desnos, "libraire de Sa Majesté Danoise" and an editor of almanacs, who about 1770 republished one volume under 50 different titles. F.W. Faxon’s Literary Annuals and Gift Books (Boston, 1912) shows that some British publishers issued spurious gift books during the nineteenth century.

21 See The Bookseller’s Medium II, 148 (December 1, 1859); III, 143 (November 1, 1860).

22 In the catalog of the New York Regular Parcel Sale, December 4, 1861, Leavitt & Allen offer 38 gift books, priced from $2.25 to $8.

23 Many were published by one or the other of these New York firms: Burdick & Scovill, J.M. Fletcher & Co., Edward A. Rice & Co. Common titles are "The Christian Diadem and Family Keepsake," "The Family Circle and Parlor Annual" or "Ladies’ Wreath." Editors’ names are ordinarily omitted.

24 For example, Edward A. McLaughlin’s poem The Lovers of the Deep, Cincinnati, 1841, was republished in New York in 1851 as The Coral Gift, or the Lovers of the Deep.

25 For example, a collection of stories by Hermann Bokum was published in Boston in 1836 as The Stranger’s Gift, a Christmas and New Year’s Present.



The literature in American gift books is of various kinds. It represents the ideas of nearly all the writers of the time, the tastes of dozens of editors, the purposes of scores of publishers. Most of the volumes contain biographical, descriptive, and moral essays; short stories; and poems. Book reviews as such and the news of the day were never included. The writers ranged from high to low, from the famous to those whose only excuse for publication was that they knew a gift book editor.

Certain volumes were intended to serve a specific purpose. Perhaps the most interesting are those connected with the anti-slavery movement: The Oasis (1834), The Liberty Bell (1839-58), Freedom’s Gift (1840), The North Star (1840), Star of Emancipation (1841), Liberty Chimes (1845), and Autographs for Freedom (1853-54). The ill effects of strong drink were set forth in The Fountain (1847), The Sons of Temperance Offering (1850-51), and The Temperance Offering 1853. The Odd Fellows’ Offering 1843-54 and The Masonic Offering (1854) represented their respective brotherhoods; in the preface to the latter it was said, in fact, that "almost every society and order has its Souvenir, or Offering, or Annual." The Jackson Wreath (1829) told of the virtues of the new President – a sort of campaign gift book – and the Cabinet (c1829) of Jackson and his State advisers. The Rough and Ready Annual (1848) concerns the heroes of the Mexican war and the enemy Santa Anna. When Frances S. Osgood died, The Memorial (1851) was published to raise funds for her monument in Mt. Auburn cemetery. Our Pastors’ Offering, it was hoped, would by its sale bring a profit with which the newly-erected Second Church of Boston might be furnished. The proceeds of The Offering 1829 were devoted to "the cause of infant education," those of Gifts of Genius to one Miss C.A. Davenport, a blind and indigent teacher of drawing.

About a dozen little 32mos or 24mos which may be called Mourners’ Books were published as gifts, under some such title as "Echoes of Infant Voices," "Gift of Mourners," "Offering of Sympathy," or "Mourners’ Friend." None, it appears, contains original work of significance; the material in almost every instance was selected from printed sources. Striking a more cheerful note but of no more individual importance are the gift books for brides, with titles like "The Bridal Wreath," "Marriage Offering," "The Wedding Gift," "The White Veil." Illustrated volumes dealing with flowers and flower-language were common; there were at least fifty such, appropriately named "Flora’s Album," "Flora’s Dial," "Flora’s Interpreter," "Floral Keepsake," "Poetry of Flowers," or "Flower Garden." These also are usually compilations, and represent a pastime probably centuries old, that of attempting to find (as one writer put it) "the wisdom of the heart and soul of the children of God" which is "partly revealed, and partly disguised in tints, petals, and foliage."1

Still another grouping might be made of those gift books containing the work of writers living in a certain city or a certain state. These are The Amethyst (1831), by Baltimore authors; The Baltimore BookThe Boston Book (four volumes); The Charleston BookGems for You, by New Hampshire authors; The Native Poets of MaineThe New Hampshire BookThe New-Orleans BookThe New York Book of PoetryThe Philadelphia BookThe Portland Sketch BookThe Rhode-Island BookThe Tablet, by New Haven authors; and The Western Souvenir, by "western men," according to the preface. The contributors to The Souvenir of the Lakes no doubt lived in and about Detroit.


Gift books were well received by the American public, as the circulation of the leading annuals attests. "This night at about 11 o’clock," a young Harvard man noted in his diary, "I borrowed The Atlantic Souvenir and Clarke and I sat up reading till most 3."2 The professional critics, however, refused to be rushed off their feet. As one said, the first gift books were not heralds of "the twilight dawn of American literature," but mere "pleasant and not inapt habitation" for the minor work of American writers. It was thought unfortunate that literature had to be supported "through a medium which must depend, in a great measure, for its popularity upon the arts of publication, and upon the selection of a season to secure a general circulation."3 Yet these self-same arts of publication were usually of most interest to reviewers with the letter press relegated to second place. "The literary merit of the best of them – on either side of the Atlantic – was never anything more than respectable, and generally not even that," remarked an American critic,4 and his opinion was echoed and re-echoed.

Perhaps British annuals deserved just such condemnation. They seem to have been even more meretricious than were many of the American, and toadied to would-be aristocrats with a roster of titled contributors or caught the public eye with the names of great literary lights – who, as it turned out, had rarely anything to say. Critics in New York or Boston or Philadelphia as a rule were willing to bestow high praise upon native annuals when their trans-Atlantic rivals entered the discussion. And their judgment need not have been inspired solely by patriotic bias; gift book writing as a whole in the United States was probably undertaken in a more sincere spirit than in the mother country. America had a literary reputation to make for herself, and for a while it was rarely forgotten that the annuals would further this end. Most of the critics whose voices sounded disapprovingly were not above contributing their own writings – for a good sum, no doubt.

Some objective judgments were distinctly flattering, on the other hand, and the fact remains that gift books were reviewed at length in important American periodicals until the mid-1840’s. The North American Review, for example, published about a dozen notices of annuals between 1826 and 1841, some running into thousands of words. John Neal professed little admiration for The Token 1829, yet devoted a considerable portion of three successive numbers of his Yankee to analyzing it.5 William Leggett’s weekly journal called The Critic reviewed 54 books between November 1828 and February 1829; one-third of these were annuals and gift books, British and American. The Knickerbocker gave space to annuals rather regularly until 1846, when their vogue was about over.

A decade earlier The Knickerbocker had spoken out in the following terms:

"Time was, and that not a great while ago, when the yearly souvenir was considered, by most persons, as little more than an apt vehicle for circulating inflated fancies or bastard sentimentalities. The degradation of this species of literature arose from the mistaken idea, that inasmuch as annuals were mainly intended as presents for girls, and young ladies, the matter should be chiefly composed of love-stories, and "pretty pieces of poetry" – so that at last it came to be seen, that almost every body was an indifferent good hand at annual writing.… But there has been a gradual and constant improvement in the American annuals; and we now find the greater part of their matériel highly creditable…and all of it above a respectable mediocrity."6

It is hardly possible to say that annuals were more creditable or less creditable during any period of their popularity, for until about 1845, if one series declined in quality, or disappeared altogether, there was another to take its place. After that time, though, gift books relied more and more upon non-original writing, upon gleanings rather than especially contributed prose and verse. One observation in the foregoing remark was just, however. It does seem that almost everybody was an indifferent good hand at annual-writing.

"Mister, I’ve seen them books that they call annuals," declared Major Jack Downing, "and I don’t think I can write well enough to go into one of them, for I ain’t a grammar-larnt man."7 It is surprising how many writers for gift books were less self-critical than the Major. If most of them understood conventional grammar, only a few employed the tool with effect. Housewives, preachers, journalists, scholars, diplomats, hopeful young men in college – these felt assured that they had something to say, and sent in their effusions. After the first volume of The Talisman appeared, a series of unsolicited contributions descended upon its editors, and they had to explain in the preface to the following issue that such assistance was not desired. Poetry, especially, was plentiful, the supply being such that one magazine proprietor, Louis A. Godey, had always "more sent to him, gratuitously, than he could possible make use of."8

Once the age of gift books set in, literary creation was hungrily undertaken. Since it was every day being "proved" that one could become rich by dint of application, perhaps many thought that literary heights, as well, could be easily scaled. Some who lived in this period have commented upon a pernicious habit young people had of soliciting all comers to write an appropriate verse or thought on the tinted page of an album. " ‘Let me see your album,’ " we are told, "was the first favor asked by visiting young ladies and ‘Do write in my album’ was the word of terror to the ear of every gentleman suspected of dallying with the muses."9 Albums became popular, no doubt, because most visitors to a family parlor were able to pen a few lines, original or otherwise. Those found in family archives today are often bound in gift book style; some are entitled "Casket of Thoughts" or "Token of Affection," like the printed volumes, and not a few are illustrated with plates from annuals. Leavitt & Allen, gift book publishers, made a specialty of these blank-books.10

There was indeed a burst of interest in making rhymes and stories. The "golden age of periodicals," starting in 1825, the albums, the gift books – all were at once a cause and an effect of the interest. And it had not always been thus. In earlier years, literary demand sometimes exceeded the supply. Charles Brockden Brown, having abandoned two magazines in two and a half years, in 1803 organized a third. Even then he could not succeed; the "literary aid" for which he had prayed was not forthcoming.11

In every age, of course, literary interest is rather passive than active, and altho it may sometimes seem that "almost every body" was writing for the annuals, relatively few actually indulged. Those who were successful made money, however, since many gift books paid for satisfactory contributions. Such a procedure was something of a novelty as late as 1828. As one reviewer said, contributors to periodicals had hitherto seemed to "resent the idea of pay."12 The situation is perhaps best summed up in the words of a contemporary:

"There is a rage for authorship. Of old
Men wrote, they say, for garlands – not for gold.

But all, grown wiser now, take no offence
When Goodrich talks of drafts and recompense!"13

Prizes were occasionally offered by gift book publishers, probably in lieu of payment to all contributors. The scheme was not new; a contest had been arranged for The Album, an anthology issued in New York in 1824 with twelve original poems and a variety of selected material. N.P. Willis, then a Yale undergraduate, won the award of $50.14 For The Memorial 1828, however, $200 was posted; $60 for the best poem, $60 for the best prose, and $40 for the second best, in each case. The judges were Jared Sparks, John Pierpont, and John W. James.15 When Goodrich planned The Token in 1827, he offered a like amount of money, and the awards were assigned by Pierpont, Charles Sprague, and F.W.P. Greenwood to Willis, Mrs. L.H. Sigourney, and an unknown author.16 The table of contents of The Amethyst 1831 reveals that some sort of competition had preceded the appearance of that volume.

More frequently, payment to all contributors rather than the awarding of prize money to three or four was arranged. The Gift paid an average of $2 a page; The Violet’s rate was $1.5017 James Russell Lowell was promised $5 a page for his work in The Token 1842.18 The publishers of The Religious Souvenir 1839 and 1840 allowed a flat rate of $2 a page.19 The Legendary offered $1 per page for prose, more for verse.20 The rates of certain monthly magazines were similar; Godey’s gave between $1 and $2 a page for prose, and Munroe & Francis paid about the same for contributions to Parley’s Magazine.21

Payment naturally varied with the reputation of the writer. Some authors were satisfied with a copy of the gift book; others were sufficiently rewarded by the sight of their work in print. Charles West Thomson, source of all the verse in The Literary Souvenir 1838 and 1840, was paid a total of $70.65, or about $3 per page.22 The fee for Nathaniel Hawthorne’s eight stories in The Token 1837 was $108,23 just over $1 per page; "The Gentle Boy," published in The Token 1832, was worth $35 to Goodrich,24 or 75 cents a page. Washington Irving’s return for two and a half pages of verse in The Atlantic Souvenir 1827 was one copy of the book, valued at $1.67 by the publishers, but Catharine M. Sedgwick, one of the most admired of gift book writers, received more than $50 apiece for her five stories in the various issues of the same annual.25 William Leggett remarked that he had asked $9 for his tale called "The Rifle," published in The Atlantic Souvenir 1828, but that Carey & Lea had been so generous as to pay him $60.26

British gift books often paid princely fees. Expenses for the literary portion of the second London Keepsake were reported as £1,600. In all probability no American publisher spent anything like that on a single issue, nor was any American writer for annuals rewarded on the same scale as Scott, who received from one British volume £500. The proportion between the amount paid for literary matter and that paid for illustration, however, was about the same on both sides of the Atlantic. The cost of the latter was ordinarily two or three times that of the former.27

Very few foreign writers were witting contributors to American gift books, altho a great many, no doubt all unknown to themselves, were represented. Dozens of French, English, and Irish sympathizers sent their work to The Liberty Bell, but for the purposes of the ordinary American annual native resources sufficed. Mary Anne Browne and her sister Felicia Hemans, Mrs. Amelia Opie, James Montgomery, R. Shelton Mackenzie – these, and perhaps a few others of less note, constitute the list. Mrs. Sigourney appealed to Wordsworth for a contribution to her Religious Souvenir 1839,28 but apparently did not get it. So far as can be determined, no eminent foreign literary figures published their work in American gift books, unless Elizabeth Barrett Browning may be so called. Two poems of Mrs. Browning’s appeared originally in The Liberty Bell 1848 and 1856.29

Translations of foreign literature, no doubt unauthorized, are frequently encountered, however, in The Offering 1829, The Christian’s AnnualThe BrilliantThe American Keepsake 1851, and others. In The Diadem 1845-47, over four-fifths of the material is translated from the German of Zschokke, Richter, Uhland, and Freiligrath. The Odd Fellows’ Offering 1844 and 1845 contain J.L. Lewett’s English version of Dumas’s Catherine Howard, two acts in each volume. Plays, incidentally, are rarely found in the gift books, and the outstanding other examples are also translations: Dr. Robert Arthur’s rendering of Kotzebue’s The Quakers in The Snow Flake 1846, and the anonymous version of Mme. Campan’s Cecilia in The Casket 1829.

Nearly every American writer of reputation was pressed into service. Of those who reached maturity in 1845 or earlier, only Melville, Thoreau, and Whitman escaped – and one cannot be sure that their work does not hide under pseudonymity or anonymity in any of a dozen volumes. James Fenimore Cooper probably did not sympathize with the middle class affection for gift books, and his writings were neither brief nor poetic, as was desirable. Yet he consented to the republication of parts of The Spy in The Gem of the Season 1850, and it is said that he contributed to The Magnolia.30 Nathaniel Hawthorne’s tales in The Token number at least 27, and represent his best work in the short story form. Emerson, Poe, and Longfellow appear together in a single volume of The Gift – that for 1845. Were one to list all contributions to gift books by leading American writers, the catalog would be impressive.

A complete author index, however, would show the most frequent contributors to be such as Mrs. Sigourney, Miss Hannah F. Gould, Grenville Mellen, Charles West Thomson and Samuel G. Goodrich. It would include many names which have been quite forgotten. Perhaps it is just as well that the measure of repute which accrued to a resident of Albany or Newark or Northampton or Cincinnati as a result of the publication of a single poem has long been lost.


American gift book literature is not easily described, so varied were the purposes of certain volumes, so casual the impulses of the majority. About the only sweeping conclusion possible is that all were highly moral and polite. The matter of purity, indeed, was held to be so vital that more than one editor gave it attention in his preface. G.T. Bedell, rector of St. Andrew’s Church, Philadelphia, and editor of The Religious Souvenir 1833, was "not unwilling to hazard his reputation, as a Christian and a minister of the Gospel, on the truth of the declaration, that not one line or word will be found in the volume which might cause a Christian to fear its being put into the hands of any one." It was hardly a daring bet, for even in less solicitously-prepared annuals there are no untoward thoughts or phrases. The grossness and racy humor characteristic of American democracy lay closer to the lower elements of society than to the middle class associated with gift books. Only occasionally was even the respectably comic admitted to the pages of the souvenirs.

The most notable instance of humor is the American Comic Annual (1831). Here, largely by means of puns, Henry J. Finn and his unnamed colleagues twitted condescending Englishmen, rustic Yankees, over-sensitive maidens, phrenologists, temperance cranks, and others. But the tone did not please a large audience. No second volume appeared. Several others of the sort were published Whimwhams (1828), The Odd Volume (1832-33), The Scrap Book (1834), and Ps and Qs (1828), but in format and design they have little in common with a work like The Token. Comedy was not at home in the annuals, dedicated to the task of elevating national taste. Finn’s book is rather a comic almanac than a member of the gift book family.

It should not be supposed, however, that humor does not appear in such series as The Atlantic Souvenir or The Gift. If it were a semi-rowdy humor, as in "The Bashful Man," in The Token 1832, which shows an awkward hero spilling food upon his dinner partner, it was likely to draw the fire of a critic. "Weak and coarse" was the verdict of one reviewer of this tale.31 A more subtle sort of wit may be found in the stories written by James Kirke Paulding for The Atlantic Souvenir, or in the anonymous "The Tragedy of Errors" and "The Gentleman in Green Glasses" in The Memorial 1828. The Talisman 1828-30, conducted in a mocking vein by the members of the New York Sketch Club, is studded with humor, much of which was probably the work of one man, Robert C. Sands. But in the majority of literary annuals, and especially in such as The OpalThe DiademThe MagnoliaThe Gift, and The Liberty Bell, the key is rather minor than major, and the life portrayed is sober. Lightened often enough with refined gaiety, they are hardly conducive to hearty laughter or open mirth.

The strength of American sectarianism was probably the main reason for gift book sobriety. Modern religions have never been especially joyous, and those that flourished here were especially grave. Naturally enough, the gift books reflected their times. The series called The Opal was begun in 1843 to serve "the religious and moral classes of society," according to the preface to the first issue, altho long before 1843 these so-called classes had been offered appropriate holiday volumes. The Remember Me (1829), The Religious Souvenir, begun in 1832, and The Christian Keepsake and Missionary Annual 1838-40 had preceded – to mention only a few. After The Opal had started its good work there was still room for others: Beauties of Sacred LiteratureThe Sacred TableauxThe Judson OfferingThe Women of the Scriptures, and a variety of volumes with the words "Christian" or "Religious" in their titles. Between 1845 and 1847 three elaborate books called Scenes in the Life of the SaviourScenes in the Lives of the Apostles, and Scenes in the Lives of the Patriarchs and Prophets were issued by a Philadelphia publisher. The Missionary Memorial, however, is one of the few religious gift books of literary interest today.

Some volumes were exponents of one sect or another, but more were consecrated to the less explicit task of furthering all kinds of Protestantism. In the sphere of art and culture, apparently, it was thought best to forget doctrinal differences, and John Keese announced in his preface as editor of The Opal 1846 that he had employed "the pens of several clergymen of different denominations…to avoid even the appearance of sectarian bias." Yet The Rose of Sharon 1843 was reviewed in the press as a product of the Universalist faith, and The Catholic Keepsake offered, under the imprimatur of Bishop Kenrick of Philadelphia, stories and verses especially suited to persons of that persuasion. An anti-Catholic attitude is sometimes encountered, but it rarely reaches conviction. The range extends from the mildness of "The Proselyte," in The Religious Souvenir 1836, which explains how an Episcopal girl lectured a Popish Indian maiden on the true meaning of transsubstantiation, to the Nordic White jingoism of Our Country, published by the American party, the ultra-patriotic, anti-foreign, pro-Union Know-Nothingism of The Wide-Awake Gift, or the ignorant anti-Catholicism of The Protestant Annual.

With such consistency did the gift books proclaim the efficacy of religion that it is surprising to find certain writers for The Liberty Bell, in the extremity of Abolitionist passion, denouncing the theologian and his system. But theirs was an unusual case, as we shall see. The ordinary gift book was as ready a means of spreading the Gospel as was the monthly magazine. And America was accustomed to religious reading matters; of 59 magazines which had enough strength to persist for at least five years between 1800 and 1825, nearly one-half were of a distinctly religious nature.32 Little wonder that most gift books published approving reflections upon churches and their activities. Nor were younger readers forgotten in the spread of religious instruction. One publishing house alone – that of the American Sunday School Union – issued at least a dozen little gift books, and few juvenile volumes from secular presses were without their share of pious advice.

Few gift books intended for children are of interest as gift books, however; the great majority fall within the general category of juvenile literature rather than within the special category of literary annuals. Worthy of note are The Youth’s KeepsakeThe Pearl, and The Violet. In the first may be found work by Hawthorne, Holmes, and Whittier, and writers less well known but nevertheless of some reputation contributed to others. A striking view of children’s literature at this time is furnished by The Excelsior Annual, compiled from writings of New York City public school pupils. The emotion, affectation, and morality with which their elders had chosen to impress the younger generation were returned in good measure by the children themselves once they had the chance. To a student of juvenile literature The Excelsior Annual should be exceedingly interesting.

Certain annuals were edited by clergymen, and in others clergymen constitute a majority of the contributors. Of over thirty writers represented in The Token of Friendship 1851, only seven were laymen. Of 57 contributors to The Christian Keepsake and Missionary Annual 1838, 36 were ministers. The incumbents of seven churches in Boston alone wrote for The Token: J.H. Clinch, George W. Doane, F.W.P. Greenwood, John Pierpont, Henry Ware Jr., R.C. Waterson, and Hubbard Winslow; and the list would be considerably larger if all those who occupied pulpits in other cities were included. The editor of one annual explained why religious gift books were desirable, and his words aid in an understanding of the spirit which goes so far to characterize the genus as a whole:

"I will suppose that the ornamented and elegantly bound volume is purchased and laid upon the centre-table, without the slightest reference to the lesson of holy instruction it is intended to convey. This volume has inscribed upon its gilded pages the words of eternal life. It is caught up in some moment of thoughtlessness or of ennui; and just then speaks to the eye, that holds communion with its pages, so winningly of Christ and eternal things – or breathes forth upon the listening ear notes of heaven so sweetly, that from that hour there begins in the heart a work of transformation."33

Not all American literary annuals were entangled in any such web of purpose, fortunately, yet few could escape altogether. With amusement rather than salvation their design, The Atlantic SouvenirThe TokenThe Gift, and others of the best series were steeped in sorrow and Christian resignation. Thoughts of death and thoughts in preparation for death fill their pages, to such a degree that even contemporaries complained. "Why call it The Token," asked one; "a better title by far would be Golgotha."34 The inevitable dissolution of humanity was ever remembered, and Protestantism, with its prayers and principles, a constant assurance. Gift book readers were told time and again that virtue is rewarded, that religion brings peace, that nature shows God’s handiwork, that the dead bring sad but sweet mourning.

"The heart finds sanctity in a tale of suffering love [wrote the editor of The Rose of Sharon 1841 to her readers]; it finds a chastening sweetness in the songs of innocent affection…and it is even more richly blessed by the beautiful and eloquent lessons brought forth from the mountains and from the sea, from the quiet stream and the solemn woodland, from the face of holy childhood and the gentle countenance of Christian hope."

The leading story in The Opal 1846 – and a typical one – is of a young widow whose husband died at sea. The second death comes as her only child, born blind, passes away. "What could disturb the serenity of one who had survived earthly sources of comfort," observes the author, Elizabeth Oakes Smith, and the tragedy ends as the Widow Grey herself dies, happy and contented.

This concern with death was eventually lessened, and a desire to bring people to the right way of life as well as the right sort of death took its place. Such later gift books as those representing the anti-slavery movement or the temperance societies were obviously undertaken for the former purpose, yet others, outwardly less interested in reform, could not overlook it entirely. The fashion in literature was by 1845 beginning to change. A decade later it was said that "fiction now bears a stronger resemblance to truth, the fancied becomes more like the real, and the marvellous is brought down to the range of probability."35 Realism, in the commonly understood sense of the word, was still distant, but the beginnings of a shift from the romantic are easily discernible. As one editor remarked in 1846, "A great change has occurred in the spirit of belles lettres writing of late years. This has been exemplified in the literature of the Annuals, a class of books which at the outset proposed only amusement, but has gradually, like the Journals and Magazines, become the representative of various phases of the religious and social world."36


One does not read very far in the gift books without becoming acutely aware of the limitations of their poetry. The prose is generally good, at times excellent. The verse, however, consists mainly of banalities, rhymed or unrhymed – commonly the former. The fault is partly that many poems were written to order, as illustrations of engravings. But the main difficulty is not that. Most contemporary newspapers and magazines, in which the writing suffered no such handicap, contain work of no higher quality, and unillustrated gift books – such as those edited by the Rev. C.W. Everest: The Moss Rose (1840), The HarebellThe Snow-Drop, and The Primrose – are not the better for their modest format. The spirit of the time was one of conformity, not experiment, and the chief glories of gift book poetry are the slender and fundamentally derivative lyrics of Bryant in The Talisman, or occasional well-constructed conventionalities like the anonymous "To***** ********," in The Token 1836, beginning

"Fair daughter of the sunny-cinctured South!
Whose birth is written in thy form and face."

Common are such pieces as that by Mrs. Sigourney entitled "Monody on the Death of the Principal of the Connecticut Retreat for the Insane," in The Token 1835. Against this sort of thing Whitman was later to raise his voice, seeing that a worthy native poetry could not come from "those highly-refined imported and gilt-edged themes…causing tender spasms in the coteries, and warranted not to chafe the sensitive cuticle of the most exquisitely artificial gossamer delicacy."37 "Do you call those genteel little creatures American poets?" he asked in a scornful tone.

The answer is implicit in the verses which year by year crowded the pages of the annuals. The politics of an earlier poetic generation was supplanted by a feminine subject matter; the military hymning of the Hartford Wits was forgotten, despite patriotic aspiration, until the time of the Mexican war. Spirit-sanctifying, personal subjects were sought – and weakly sung. It is not that such subjects cannot be effectively treated, but that they were unhappily approached. Poe worked verbal magic in telling of the death of a young girl. Gift book writers adorned the tragedy with words of moral counsel. See the method of a writer in The Amaranth 1842:

"A tender infant-girl
Lay in her shroud and coffin:
Her cheeks were like the pearl,
For tears had washed them often.
Ah me! her lot was sad and wild, -
She was a drunken mother’s child."

To gift book stories, as well, the morally beneficial was frequently attached. But in prose not every word need carry such weight as in verse, and the poetry suffered the more from the blight. Since the popularity of annuals presupposed a need for instruction, however, it is not surprising that their literature accorded with the generic purpose. Gift books were meant to reassure, to soothe, to conventionalize according to a cultural pattern. Felicia Hemans was the ideal singer, Mrs. Sigourney her American counterpart. A comment upon the former shows what was wanted and what was had. The words are Horace Greeley’s, in The Rose of Sharon 1841:

"Her spirit…was never a daring, questioning one. It loved to lean upon the established, to shelter itself beneath the wing of authority.… The mighty love of the mother for her children;…the struggle of faith and love, and woman’s fortitude, with the oversweeping tide of misfortune, bereavement, and agony;…these are the themes and the incitements on which the peerless woman of our age loved to pour forth her seraph spirit in bursts of undying song."

Even when gift book verses were built about powerful subjects their method was unlikely to be impressive. The period was not one of technical boldness. George W. Thomson’s "Elegy Written in a Western Churchyard," from The Gift 1837, catches the drama of the westward expansion and achieves an effect rarely gained by the lyric Hemans school. Thomson recognized the importance of his theme, and apparently was sincerely affected by it. But he could do no better than turn to Thomas Gray for his form, as the following excerpts show:

"And here, with grass and tangled vines o’erspread,
These pioneers in honour’d dust are laid;
The fearless men, whose daring footsteps led
Th’ advance of millions through the forest shade.

The pioneers are gone, the cabin falls,
The forest sinks beneath the woodman’s stroke,
The morning sun to gainful labour calls,
And dingy workshops fill the air with smoke."

A vigorous and original poetic style is rarely found in American gift books for the good reason that there were then few vigorous and original American poets. Emerson tried to progress in the right direction, and some of his achievements were published in The Gift and The Diadem. Equally praiseworthy is the fact that he succeeded in forcing a few pieces by William Ellery Channing (the younger) upon the editor of these annuals, since Emerson’s protégé also was moving in the right direction. And even though Channing never got very far, such an effort as his "Soldiers’ Graves," in The Gift 1844, was of greater promise than many other more ambitious and better mannered verses by the literary heroes and heroines of the age:

"For fretted roof, God’s brave bright sky,
Flaming with light, bends over them.
In place of verse – a people’s liberty.
Graved in deep hearts, their requiem;
The fringes, little flowers, – the shining grass; -
Will any for such burial say – Alas!"

Here, at least, was compression and economy, consciousness of the sound of words and of the effect of rhythmic pattern. Here, at least, was no mere jingle.


The fiction in gift books is usually American in locale. Of the hundred or so stories in The Token, nearly 70 are laid in this country. The same proportion holds in the case of The Atlantic Souvenir. Some tales reflect the life of the times with apparent faithfulness: "The Camp Meeting," in the second volume of The Legendary; Mrs. Caroline M. Kirkland’s stories of Michigan in The Gift; the tales in The Western Souvenir. The search for gold in California became legitimate material soon after the rush began, as is shown by articles in The Rose of Sharon 1850 and Leaflets of Memory 1851. Life in the gay spas of Ballston or Saratoga, and excursions to such celebrated spots as the Hudson highlands or Niagara or Trenton Falls were often worked into stories, especially in The Token.

The charm of Negro ways and speech was capitalized, notably by W.G. Simms’s "The Lazy Crow," in The Gift 1840. Even the semi-legendary character of Mike Fink found its way into The Western Souvenir, and Buffalo Bill performed great deeds in a story published in The Forget Me Not 1852. The favorite "science" of phrenology was not overlooked, as in "The Lecturer," in The Gift 1840, or John Neal’s "The Young Phrenologist," in The Token 1836. More remarkable is "The Haunted Man," in The Atlantic Souvenir 1832, which appears to be an early use, perhaps the first, of the methods of psychotherapy as material for fiction.38

Another story which may have been motivated by an actual happening – the appearance of Halley’s Comet in 1835 – is "The Comet," in The Token 1839. One of the best of gift book tales, it ranks with Paulding’s "The Magic Spinning Wheel," in The Token 1836, certain of Hawthorne’s stories ("Roger Malvin’s Burial," in The Token 1832, for example) and Poe’s "The Purloined Letter," in The Gift 1845. "The Comet" tells of the approach of an astral body; astronomers have computed its orbit and speed, and, as the seemingly inevitable moment of collision approaches, a group of men discuss the metaphysical as well as the mathematical probabilities of such a catastrophe. Would a world made by God with the obvious purpose of perfecting mankind be allowed to meet destruction before the goal was attained? Or is not man worse off today than ever, and the idea of increasing virtue and happiness a delusion? The answer comes with the annihilation of the earth as the comet crashes upon it. It is strange that The Token admitted such a pessimistic story. Equally puzzling is the identity of the author, one S. Austin Jr.

Most gift book tales contain no such elements of reality. They are romances thru and thru, dealing with Indians and settlers, rebellious Greece for which Byron died, the equally rebellious Poland, deeds of medieval knights and ladies, or the elegant love-making of some elegant nobleman and his set. With their poetic companions, these tales are the verbal counterpart of gilt stamping on gift book covers and sweet, ideal faces in the engravings. Both reflect a temper which has little to do with life today and can hardly have had much to do with life a century ago. The gift book was the sign not of an embracing of life, but of an emotionalizing of life. It presented as governing factors ideas and facts that actually have no such general application.

Even in openly nationalistic annuals local subject matter was often so handled as to render it temporally, if not geographically, exotic. The American Indian was shown as either inhumanly cruel and ferocious or the pitiful victim of an encroachment which drove him further and further toward the setting sun. In actuality, of course, the Indian was cruel and also the victim of circumstances. But when dominated by these elements his picture is romantic handiwork. As such may be recognized also the accounts of perfectly behaved children, and the numerous stories dwelling upon the imminence of death and the sadness of bereavement.

High-flown language and attitudinizing frequently appear. A running girl was described as "bounding over the frosty field with the fleetness of a frightened fawn." "No, no, my good friends," cried the hero of an otherwise vigorous story, "you mean me well, but I cannot consent to live unless I can live with an unsullied fame." Such stylistics were not confined to gift books, of course; one may find them in much nineteenth century fiction. Young Glendinning, in Melville’s Pierre, is made to speak in Shakespearian blank verse. Most of the characters in Cooper’s novels talk only like characters in a novel.

From the same springs, no doubt, came the flourish of contemporary public speeches, that oratorical rhetoric which today seems hollow. As for the dramatic powers of death summoned by an author’s pen, they have not been forgotten, as the modern mystery novel craze would seem to show. Gift book writers, however, were at first not interested in purely melodramatic aspects; death was made to appear sad rather than exciting, whether it came from tuberculosis or at the hands of a heathen Indian. One tale in The Atlantic Souvenir begins with 23 characters, but at the end, after drownings, murders, and cannibalism, all have perished, including the supposed scribe of the tragedy. A passage from another story runs as follows:

"Talasco raised his tomahawk – "Do not strike father," said Françoise, in a faint calm voice, "he is dead." "Then let him bear the death scar," replied the unrelenting savage, and with one stroke he clove her husband’s head asunder. One lone loud shriek pealed on the air, and Françoise sunk into as utter unconsciousness as the mangled form she clasped."39

But by 1840 the story of unrequited love or of heartbreaking disaster lost favor, and death was employed for the sake of excitement and melodrama, as today. There is no need to dwell upon the hair-raising qualities of Poe’s well-known "The Pit and the Pendulum," published in The Gift 1843. Less familiar are others, some of which outdo Hoffmann and Poe himself and furnish real pre-Boucicault thundering. In William E. Burton’s "The Mail Robber," in The Gift 1837, for instance, a criminal career ends in suicide and the blood of a dead husband drips thru the ceiling upon his bride.

One finds in gift book fiction certain situations which later became well-worn. The "surprise ending" tale, one in which the dénouement brings a totally unexpected turn of events, began with Irving’s "The Little Man in Black" (1807), according to one historian.40 The distinction would be better awarded to an Atlantic Souvenir story which, though published later than Irving’s narrative, is more legitimately a short story.41 The touching account of the faithful dog which mourns until it dies upon the grave of children with whom it played may be found in "Old Lion," in The Iris 1851. Animal stories, incidentally, are rarities in gift book fiction. The now-familiar theme of a rich American girl’s seeking to marry a titled foreigner – or vice-versa – is at least a century old, as is shown in The Gift 1837 by Mrs. E.C. Embury’s "The Count and the Cousin."

Another famous situation, immortalized by Horatio Alger, of the poor boy who pushes his way upward and onward and finally achieves success and saves the family honor, was employed by Seba Smith in The Gift 1843 and 1844. As for inquiries into the relationship of the sexes, they were as a rule carefully avoided. Miss Eliza Leslie, editor of The Gift, refused to accept a tale of this nature by Simms, and sent it back to him. "The gist of the story lies in the endeavor of one man to take away the wife of another," Simms replied, "and I must think the objection a little prudish." But he promised to prepare a substitute tale "which shall not offend."42 The nearest approach to the present-day domestic triangle situation is a gingerly-handled account of a bachelor in love with a married woman: "Pauline Dayton," in The Irish 1851.

Non-fiction, aside from verse, is comparatively rare, and much of what there is is either moral exhortation or exotic description. Of the remainder, the biographical sketches especially are worthy of mention. One may read of Alexander Wilson in The Atlantic Souvenir 1827, or Mrs. Hemans in The Religious Souvenir 1836, of Canova in The Atlantic Souvenir 1827, of Lablache, Rubini, Tamburini, and other famous vocalists in The Gift 1842, of Dante’s Beatrice in The Token 1836, of Lorenzo di Medici and Ole Bull in The Gem of the Season 1849, of Mozart and Beethoven in The American Keepsake 1851, of Spurzheim, the prophet of phrenology, in The Picturesque Pocket Companion. Such volumes as The Biographical AnnualHomes of American Authors, and Homes of American Statesmen are wholly biographical.

There are occasional literary essays: on Robert Burns (from a phrenological point of view) in The Rose of Sharon 1842, on Scott, Blake, and Keats in The Brilliant. Thomas Campbell is discussed in The Lady’s Annual, Wordsworth and Shelley in The Rose of Sharon 1847, Coleridge and Macaulay in the same annual for 1848. Perhaps the most notable are four studies by John S. Hart in The Opal 1848 and 1849, Leaflets of Memory 1848, and The American Gallery of Art – dealing, respectively, with Spenser’s "Muiopotmos," Chaucer’s "The Prioress’s Tale," Spenser’s "Mother Hubberd’s Tale," and Froissart’s Chronicle. Hart, who had been on the faculty of the College of New Jersey (Princeton), had later acquired no little reputation as principal of the Central High School of Philadelphia, and his pleasant and informed essays are a monument to his skill as a popularizer of early English literary history.

Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essay called "The Garden of Plants," published in The Gift 1844, represents about as serious a discussion of physical science as the annuals published. Having been struck by the "occult relation between the crawling scorpion, the flowering zoophyte, and man," Emerson made clear – fifteen years before Darwin publicized an evolutionary theory – the "perfect series from the fossil trilobite, the great-grandfather of us all…to the upright form and proud skill of the Caucasian man."

Matters of social science were more often treated. The volume called Our Day is filled with serious essays calculated to bring about reform, including one on Fourier and his system. Horace Greeley called for a better social order in The Laurel Wreath 1846, denounced capital punishment in The Lily of the Valley 1853, and in the same annual for 1851 pointed out the evils of maldistributed wealth. The issue of The Lily of the Valley for 1854 contains "Sketches from Half-Moon Court," which is a striking picture of Boston slums and a discussion of the social ills they breed. The Liberty Bell and other propagandistic volumes were largely made up of serious essays.

But, to repeat, the very fact that secular non-fiction of a serious nature appeared was an assurance that the purpose of gift books was no longer clear. Even as repositories of pleasant fiction and light poetry the volumes were forced to submit to a competition of the less expensive and more frequently issued popular magazines. By the time of the Civil war, the gift book market was left almost wholly to corpse-raisers like Leavitt & Allen, or to the publishers of quarto editions of such favorites as Bryant, Halleck, and Willis – "quarto editions, bound in turkey morocco, a most suitable gift for the holiday season."


1 The Rev. George E. Ellis, in The Mirror of Life, p. 116-17. Flower books of all kinds were extremely popular during these years, if one may judge from their number. C & L MSS. show that The Sentiment of Flowers, or Language of Flora, published by Lea & Blanchard, went thru ten editions between 1835 and 1852 – a total of about 15,000 copies.

2 John Osborne Sargent, MS. diary 1826-27 (HCL). "Clarke" is no doubt Sargent’s close friend James Freeman Clarke.

3 The North American Review, XXVIII, 482, 484 (April 1829).

4 The American Monthly Magazine (New York), VIII, 93 (July 1836).

5 The Yankee and Boston Literary Gazette, I, 358-9, 361-3, 374-4 (November 5, 12, 19, 1828).

6 The Knickerbocker, VIII, 355-6 (September 1836).

7 Seba Smith, "Uncle Joshua," in The Wintergreen 1844, p. 55-6.

8 MS. letter, Eliza Leslie to A.H. Woodbridge [August 20] 1838 (HSPA).

9 The Columbian Lady’s and Gentleman’s Magazine, I, 226 (May 1844).

10 See Leavitt & Allen’s advertisements in the catalog of the Philadelphia Trade Sale, September 20, 1858, M. Thomas & Sons, auctioneers.

11 Frank L. Mott, A History of American Magazines 1741-1850, New York, 1930, p. 220.

12 The Ariel, II, 29 (June 14, 1828).

13 Grenville Mellen, The Age of Print, Boston, 1830, p. 34.

14 See E.A. and G.L. Duyckinck, Cyclopaedia of American Literature, New York, 1855, II, 439. One of the judges was Fitz-Greene Halleck; see his letter quoted in Nelson F. Adkins, Fitz-Greene Halleck, New Haven, 1830, p. 220-1. Dr. Adkins’s conjecture that the contest referred to in the letter was that held for The Token 1828 is probably due to the fact that Willis was also a winner there.

15 See the preface to The Memorial 1828, where the prize winners are also named.

16 S.G. Goodrich, Recollections of a Lifetime, II, 262. A slip bound in the May 1827 issue of The United States Review and Literary Gazette (vol. II) gave notice of the contest.

17 C & H MSS.

18 Letters of James Russell Lowell, ed. by Charles Eliot Norton, New York, 1894, I, 62.

19 Gordon S. Haight, Mrs. Sigourney, New Haven, 1930, p. 40.

20 See prospectus in vol. I of The Legendary.

21 MS. letter, Eliza Leslie to A.H. Woodbridge [August 20] 1838 (HSPA).

22 C & H MSS.

23 Julian Hawthorne, Nathaniel Hawthorne and His Wife, Boston [c1884] I, 138.

24 Ibid., I, 132.

25 C & L MSS.

26 See The Ariel, I, 124 (November 29, 1828). C & L MSS. show that Leggett received $60 for the story and two short poems – not for the story alone.

27 The information on British gift books used in this paragraph is taken from The Art-Union, I 171 ff. (November 1839).

29 See below, p. 89.

30 See below, p. 99. See also p. 53.

31 American Monthly Review, I, 154 (February 1832).

32 This proportion is based on the list of leading American magazines published as an appendix to Frank L. Mott, op. cit.

33 The Rev. John A. Clark in the preface to The Christian Keepsake and Missionary Annual 1838.

34 The Yankee and Boston Literary Gazette, I, 374 (November 19, 1828).

35 The Lily of the Valley 1855, preface.

36 John Keese, in the preface to The Opal 1847.

37 Democratic Vistas, London, 1888, p. 65.

38 The physician in the tale, which is signed "John Neale," admitted his indebtedness for his method to an article in the "Italian Journal of Physic and Chemistry, 1847" (Giornale de fisica, chimica e storia naturale, Pavia? Volume X is for 1817), but a more immediate source may have been the work of Dr. Benjamin Rush of Philadelphia; see Woodbridge Riley, American Thought, New York, 1915, p. 109.

40 Fred L. Pattee, The Development of the American Short Story, New York, 1923, p. 19.

41 J.H.B. Latrobe ("Godfrey Wallace"), "The Heroine of Suli," in The Atlantic Souvenir 1830.

42 MS. letter, W.G. Simms to Carey & Hart, March 2 [1840] (HSPA).



Gift book prints were intended to impress the layman rather than the professional artist. Small in size and of large edition, they have little or no collector’s value today. Yet they have a style of their own, and were responsible for much of the gift books’ popularity. In some instances they are historically significant, for they represent what was probably the first deliberate extension of public support to native artists and engravers. The publishers of certain American annuals set themselves up as patrons of the fine arts – not out of altruistic motives, very likely, but that did not alter the practical effect. At intervals the best painters available were paid for designs, and the best engravers commissioned to transfer them to metal, wood, or stone.

With the appearance of American gift books, critics recognized their potential usefulness. One reviewer of the second volume of The Atlantic Souvenir said that "it is chiefly on account of our desire to see the improvement of art and taste among us, that we hope the publishers of the Souvenir, and of all similar works, may always receive ample remuneration from the public, so that they in turn may amply remunerate the artists in their employment."1 Some years later the same journal remarked that "the art of the engraver…required in this country some such encouragement," and that "deserving artists have been incited to excel by the liberal compensation which the publisher of works like these is able to offer. If no other benefit be derived from them, this, at least, may be justly mentioned to their praise."2

It was, in fact, because of their illustration that the gift books met general favor. Altho their literary quality was variously judged, their pictures were generally regarded with respect. This one may have been crudely drawn, that one badly engraved – "the left hand appears to have been cut from a turnip," said one reviewer (probably Poe) in noticing a certain picture – 3 but there was little outright scorn or denunciation. Perhaps this deference was largely due to America’s unfamiliarity with "artistic" things, to the fact that altho her critics had long felt free to assault such writing as did not please them, the products of the brush and burin were still sufficiently exotic to be awesome. Most book reviews, moreover, were written not by competent art critics but by professional journalists.

Few today will admire the eight or ten pictures presented annually by each of the leading gift books. Matters of technique aside, the very subjects might be called pointless and affected – not to say in bad taste, as was charged by one critic of The Token 1832.4 Only a few contemporary commentators, however, saw beyond pictorial quality, and no one, apparently, had the acumen to criticize the illustrations as approximations of an abstract ideal. It was quite enough that they were by Americans and of America, that they portrayed refinement and the past rather than the reality of the present, and that they did not offend conventional conceptions of art, good taste, and beauty.

Gift book illustration often guided gift book letterpress. Altho annuals published after 1845 were usually decorated with any available plate, in many of the early ones – which is to say most of the better ones – the illustration determined the accompanying story or poem. In other words, the letterpress was not illustrated by the pictures, but the pictures by the letterpress. The writer was restricted, not the artist. In a few cases, as in The Talisman, the process was reversed.5 But this was possible because The Talisman was the product of a group of friends rather than a purely commercial undertaking.

In an annual of two or three hundred pages and about a dozen plates, of course, only a minor proportion of the articles were made to order. Yet the artificiality of these few can hardly be admired, and seems sometimes to have annoyed even those who were ready to rent out their muse. Frances S. Osgood sharply reminded Carey & Hart that she could not compose her verses for the Floral Offering until she knew species of flower each plate would portray.6 Other writers, though, were less particular; Ms. E.F. Ellet hastened to assure the same publishers that she would be delighted to furnish the literary portion of The Charm. She needed only to know what the six plates were to be like and in what order they would appear.7

That the pictures were of high importance certainly did not raise the level of the letterpress, altho between the articles illustrating the plates there was ample room for the best the country could produce – and could sell to the editors. Only in the case of The Diadem 1846 and 1847 was it recognized, as the editor remarked in the 1846 preface, that "it is a false method to treat the inspiration, without which poetry is so designated only by the merest courtesy, as if it were kept subject to order and retail." In these two gift books the plates have nothing to do with the text.

In certain others, however – at least while publishers found it profitable to spend a good sum upon pictures – the ill effect of artificial writing was to some degree offset by the pictures themselves. The blend of original embellishment and original writing made such series as The Token or The Gift as remarkable products of American skill as had ever appeared in this or any other book-market. It was only after 1845, or thereabouts, that the manufactured prose and poetry became oppressive. So long as publishers were sufficiently interested to procure especially prepared pictures, they were also sufficiently liberal to hire fairly competent writers to do the hack work. Only when the form of the miscellany ceased to be a major interest were they content to use a "borrowed" letterpress or one furnished by fourth-rate writers.

Before 1825 and the first Atlantic Souvenir, illustrated American books were not uncommon, as a glance thru any history of American prints will show.8 Certain periodicals, as well, more or less regularly used pictures – notably the Philadelphia Port Folio. With the gift books, however, came the first general circulation of consciously artistic illustration, and eventually nearly all popular magazines followed suit.9 The perfection early in the nineteenth century of the steel plate and mechanical ruling devices enabled publishers to produce engravings cheaply enough to attract thousands of purchasers. The popularity of illustrations in the youthful days of a middle class society may be one token of its youth.

Yet it was not thru their pictorial quality alone that gift book illustrations appealed. They were also evidence of American artistic skill. The Token, so far as it was able, employed native artists and engravers only, the editor of the volume for 1836 pointing out in the preface that his was "the only highly embellished book, issued from the American press, which could claim entire independence of foreign aid." The Gift 1843 made about the same sort of boast, as did The Magnolia 1836 and 1837 and The Atlantic Souvenir. As one writer put it, "our uninstructed countrymen are every day bearing away the palm, from those who have possessed every advantage which information, wealth or instruction could afford."10 Even the subjects were often the local views or local heroes, and reviewers noted them with approval. "We have talked enough about our scenery," said one; "it is time that we should send the portraits of some of these things to those foreigners who cannot come here to see them face to face."11 The publication of the first book of engravings to "give accurate views of our scenery in a form worthy of a collector’s portfolio" was attributed to the fact that gift books had given proof of "competent talent among our artists" and of "taste in the community, to ensure the most successful results" of the undertaking.12

39 Catharine M. Sedgwick, "The Catholic Iroquois," in The Atlantic Souvenir 1826.

But whatever their ambitions, publishers were not able to rely solely upon native artists. Apologizing for using certain foreign designs, S.G. Goodrich commented in the preface to The Token 1833 upon the difficulty of procuring appropriate subjects in this country, and expressed the hope that the "great beauty" of those published would compensate for the fact that they were of European origin. The firm of H.C. Carey & I. Lea (or E.L. Carey & A. Hart, as it was at another time constituted) seems to have been the most successful in obtaining American models. C.R. Leslie, E.G. Leutze, S.F.B. Morse, W.S. Mount, Thomas Sully, R.W. Weir and others were commissioned to make them. The TokenThe OpalThe Magnolia, and The Western Souvenir, to mention a few, seem also to have done their best in this regard.13

The embellishments in most other American annuals, however – at times even those in the series just mentioned – were taken from paintings or designs already available. Edward L. Carey, of Carey & Hart, was himself an art collector; his "beautiful chambers" were gratefully recalled by Emerson after a visit to Philaelphia,14 and no doubt from them came many subjects for The Gift and The Diadem. Other private collections were drawn upon, such as that of Joseph Bonaparte in Bordentown, New Jersey, mentioned in connection with The Atlantic Souvenir;15 or those of Hugh Swinton Ball, of North Carolina, and Daniel Wadsworth of Hartford, used for The Magnolia 1836 and The Token 1831, respectively, as the books themselves show. At times owners allowed an engraver to copy paintings without charge; at others, some sort of fee was required. A certain J. Shaw was paid $41 for the loan of two pictures for The Gift 1837, and $20 for the use of one for the succeeding issue.16 Dealers in paintings were likely to ask remuneration, if only in kind. Michael Paff of New York demanded a number of proofs of the engravings thus made.17

The artist, therefore, was but rarely materially benefited by the gift books. So far as the engravers were concerned, however, their services were generally paid for, and in the case of The Atlantic Souvenir, the records show that about 20 per cent of the money laid out by the publishers went to them. The fees for editing and literary contributions in this annual never amounted to even 10 per cent. Asher B. Durand received $200 apiece for his works in the volumes for 1828 and 1829, and for those in the final three issues $225 apiece. The plates average 3" x 5" in size. G.B. Ellis, George W. Hatch, William Humphreys, J.B. Longacre, and others were paid about as well. As for designs, they commanded less; Thomas Doughty got $30 for his sketches of Trenton Falls and Passaic Falls in the volume for 1827, S.F.B. Morse $50 for "The Wife," three years later, and Henry Inman $25 for "The Fisher Boy," in the same volume.18

Definite information regarding the sources of designs is available in comparatively few cases, but it is evident that many annuals, especially the later ones, were illustrated with re-engravings. Even The Atlantic Souvenir erred in this respect; the first of the series contains three pictures from the London Literary Souvenir 1825. Many later annuals used only engravings which had appeared earlier in British gift books. In some cases, the actual British plates were used,19 but more often duplicates of local origin. In the spurious volumes published by such firms as Leavitt & Allen, the illustrations are obviously taken from old plates, bought perhaps in lots at trade sales at the same time as the stereotype plates.

For The Evergreen 1847 the matter of engraving was settled by payment of about $150 for the use of nine plates already prepared,20 and that they could be thus rented implies that they had been used before. In The Rose of Sharon series at least one picture from an earlier American annual was reprinted,21 and of all eighteen volumes, only one – that for 1855 – boasted original designs. The Odd Fellows’ Offering 1851 used seven engravings "from original pictures by native artists," but most other issues of the series made no such bid for distinction, and the volume for 1844 employed old Token illustrations. Sometimes an annual appeared with pictures from volumes of an antecedent series.22 It is usually possible, incidentally, to measure the literary quality of an American gift book by its illustration. If the prints are dull, or the designs known to be borrowed, one can be fairly sure that the publisher "selected" also his letterpress.

It is safe to say that after 1845 original engravings were the exception rather than the rule – to say nothing of original designs for the engravings. Gradually the patronage extended to such engravers as John Cheney – whose work is found more frequently than that of any one else in The Token – Joseph Andrews, M.I. Danforth, Edward Gallaudet, Peter Maverick, J.B. Neagle, J.I. Pease, and James Smillie was withdrawn; with the spate of eclectic and spurious letterpress came a flood of equally unauthentic illustration. Eventually the embellishments were indeed the "die-away mezzotints" of which Mark Twain spoke in Life on the Mississippi. Yet these latter-day specimens are by no means representative of all gift book illustration, as it is sometimes said.

With the "die-away mezzotints" the name of John Sartain must inevitably be connected; volume after volume is decorated with his work, and for its quantity, if not its quality, a measure of admiration is due. His earlier engravings, such as those after Sulley in The Pearl 1832 and 1833, compare favorably with other small plates of the period. But in succeeding years came the deluge. However Sartain managed to turn out so much work, it would seem that his charges were sufficiently modest and his technique sufficiently alluring to attract the attention of many publishers. Others worked in his manner: J. Doney, J.D. Gross, W.G. Jackman, J.C. McRae, A.H. Ritchie, and H.S. Sadd, but Sartain himself remained the representative mezzotint engraver of his time.

In his autobiography Sartain explains that in one Summer season he engraved 45 plates for E.H. Butler of Boston, a publisher of annuals, as well as the quarto plates for The Diadem.23 His charges for The Diadem were low – about $55 per plate – 24 and presumably the less important elements in the designs were executed by assistants. Whether or not this was the case, Sartain’s skill was not over-taxed; only in rare instances is his work indicative of the effect with which mezzotint may be employed.25 In justice it should be added that many old Sartain plates were retouched for use in spurious gift books, and these impressions are particularly poor.

In 1848 Sartain edited a gift book which, it was hoped, with subsequent volumes would constitute a "complete epitome of American Art." This, The American Gallery of Art, apparently did not make a second appearance.26 Yet other handsome imperial octavos, quartos, folios – as ambitious as Sartain’s short-lived Gallery – were appearing in the shops about this time, for the more modest gift book was losing its following. Those who had not begrudged a few dollars for The Token, let us say, had by 1850 come to look upon annuals with less envious eyes. The popular magazines were furnishing illustrations as well as stories and verses. Most of those who continued to buy gift books after 1850 were either exceedingly uncritical or exceedingly well-to-do. The gift book market was gradually becoming confined to spurious volumes and examples of super-fine format.

The literary importance of such gift books is small. The former obviously have none in their own right, the latter only slightly more, though for a different reason. Sartain’s Gallery is primarily decorative, despite its original letterpress. The Cabinet of Modern Art, published in 1851 and 1852, shows its character in its subtitle: "Subjects from Modern Masters…Illustrated by Appropriate Articles in Prose and Verse." In Lays of the Western World and Pearls of American Poetry, both "illuminated" by T.W. Gwilt Mapleson, the letterpress is so reduced in importance that it consists merely of a few reprinted poems, the major return for the $12 asked per volume having been the color printing of Mapleson’s designs.27 More elaborate than that in annuals, the illustration in certain later gift books may interest collectors and students of prints, but hardly the literary historian. As the fashion dwindled, large and expensive volumes, with India paper proofs, selling perhaps for $20, were manufactured by skilful printers.28 But their circulation was necessarily limited, as is that of similar editions today.

When the annuals were new to America the taste for fine printing and fine states of proof, and the facilities for producing bibliographic rarities, had not been highly developed. Such connoisseurs as there were, however, were not left to languish. A few copies of The Token 1829 appeared with "15 proof plates, bound in elegant silk calf and morocco, (great pains have been taken with these plates)."29 The fastidious purchaser could buy in portfolio the plates of The Token 1830, "proof impressions on India Paper, imperial 8vo."30 "A few setts of the Engravings to sell separate from the book" were advertised by an agent for The Atlantic Souvenir 1829,31 and a portfolio of proof impressions from the third volume of The Talisman was also on sale.32 Perhaps other publishers thus sought to add to their profits. Unfortunately, none of these portfolios seems to have been preserved; probably they have been broken up and their engravings distributed.33 That they were a pretty source of extra income is revealed by the accounts of Carey & Lea, who in 1829 sold 600 proofs from the plates of The Atlantic Souvenir 1830 for $700. The expense of paper and of pulling these impressions was but $125.

We may be sure that comparatively few Americans bothered with the folderol of India proofs and large paper editions. Even if their cost did not render them out of the question, their appeal was to the aristocratic element, and this element was likely not to be interested in gift books at all. The average citizen, however, could enjoy pictures of a less Tory quality. "The dissemination of Annuals softens the asperities of life," said one, "and assists the cultivation of the humanities.… There is something sacred in the destination of these beautiful compounds that endears them to our recollection."34

It would be hard to deny that the import of this statement is justified, altho its tone is perhaps too lofty. The introduction of a taste for the arts of design via gift books was of genuine significance. If many of the samples of art thus made available were of less than a reasonable minimum quality, many others were strong and effective, executed with delicacy and skill. In the words of a well-known modern critic, gift books contain "besides much poor stuff, some most pleasing examples of pure line work."35

28 See MS. letter, Lydia H. Sigourney to R. Shelton Mackenzie, January 26, 1838 (HSPA).

Line engraving was the method commonly used. Only occasionally does one come upon work in stipple, the most noteworthy being J.B. Longacre’s portraits in The Atlantic Souvenir. One-color lithographs are rare, altho work by John Pendleton may be found in The Memorial 1828, The Offering 1829, and The Visitor, while M. Swett illustrated The Gift of Friendship 1829 and The Amethyst 1831. Chromolithographs were widely used for presentation plates and ornamental title-pages late in the 1840’s, but their method was crude, and in those later volumes wholly illustrated in this technique the effect is rather depressing. The plates in The Iris 1852, said to be printed in ten colors, are from original designs of Indian life in and about Fort Snelling, Minnesota; Leaflets of Memory (n.d.) contains illustrations "executed in Chromo Lithotint by L.N. Rosenthal." The Talisman 1852 and The Winter-Bloom are ornamented with colored plates printed in "oil colours."

It seems that as the quality of the gift books declined, ornamentation tended to become more garish. We must attribute these latter-day chromatic sins to outright bad taste as well as to experimentation in mechanical color printing. Well before gift books appeared, there had been excellent multi-colored engravings,36 and a few gift books contain water-colored plates which will not offend even the fastidious – as in certain editions of The Lily, a Coloured Annual, first issued for 1831. It should be explained, however, that most water-colored engravings found in gift books today were in all probability tinted by the owners of the books – or by the children of the owners. Few publishers engaged professionals to do the work. The coloring of four plates in The Sentiment of Flowers, or Language of Flora cost Lea & Blanchard eight cents extra per copy, a considerable sum, for the total cost of production per copy was but forty cents.37

Illustrations on wood are uncommon. The popularization of wood engravings, in the style of the Civil war years, had to wait upon a taste which approved the reproduction of actual scenes rather than more or less abstract and ideal "art." In gift books the luxurious metal engravings prevailed, and wood cuts and wood engravings were used when the paper was too coarse to take metal impressions – in juvenile volumes, almanacs, or the like. An outstanding exception is The Token 1839, which contains four wood engravings by Joseph A. Adams. These, published earlier in The New York Mirror, confessedly, are "printed in two colors" in the annual. Another exception is the American Comic Annual, illustrated with amusing designs by D.C. Johnston.

There seems to be but one photograph in a gift book – the "Crystallotype or Sun Picture" which serves as a frontispiece to the first edition of Homes of American Statesmen (1854). Occasionally, however, engravings after daguerreotypes are found, as in The Rose of Sharon 1850 or that for 1857. The portraits in The Gallery of Illustrious Americans, mentioned earlier in this chapter, were made after daguerreotypes by M.B. Brady.

Most personal portraits found in gift books were patterned after less reliable and more romantic sources than photographs. Magazines had for some time before the annuals appeared offered such likenesses,38 and eventually gift books followed the practice – The Liberty Bell with pictures of prominent Abolitionists, The National Temperance Offering with those of temperance leaders, and The Christian Keepsake 1838-40 and The Religious Souvenir with those of prominent divines. The Drawing-Room Scrap Book contains likenesses of Emerson, Irving, and Jean Paul Richter (probably not original with that volume), and in a few others may be found portraits equally interesting.

Volumes devoted wholly to pictures of living persons found their way into the market late in the period, but these, "mainly supported by vain women paying for their portraits being engraved," as one critic observed,39 are of interest today, so far as their subjects are concerned, only to the descendants of the ladies thus immortalized. In format and technique, however, one or two are noteworthy. The Book of Home Beauty, published in New York in 1852 with twelve portraits of American women after drawings by Charles Martin, is a large folio, with fine India proofs in some copies.40 In The American Book of Beauty are the likenesses of seven beautiful (and no doubt wealthy) ladies of New York, Baltimore, and Boston. The Wreath of Beauty is another of the sort.

The rarefied nature of these "books of beauty" shows how useless illustrated holiday volumes as a class had become. Lacking a popular and educative appeal, they were doomed. Once the letterpress and illustration no longer spoke to the average middle-class American, once occasional costly folios with India proofs began to supplant the more modest annual, the end was at hand. A writer in the 1850’s prophesied that pictures of "great-eyed, smooth-cheeked, straight-nosed, little-mouthed, small-waisted beauties" were sure to "disappear before advancing taste and superior education."41 He spoke more truly than he knew, and was probably ignorant of the implications of his remark.


1 The North American Review, XXIV, 230 (January 1827).

Ibid., XXXVI, 277-8 (January 1833).

3 Graham’s Magazine, XIX, 250 (November 1841). Poe was editing Graham’s at this time, and this review (of The Gift 1842) may well have been written by him. The reviewer refers to his own story in the volume, and Poe’s "Eleonora" appears on p. 154-62. The engraving in question is entitled "The Sled."

The Illinois Monthly Magazine, II, 58 (November 1831). The picture called "The Toilette," it was said, "borders so nearly upon indecency, as to be, in our opinion, inadmissable." The scene portrayed is of a young woman, fully clothed, combing her hair.

5 See MS. letter, R.C. Sands to G.C. Verplanck, January 11 [1829] (NYHS).

6 MS. letter dated August 2 [1846] (HSPA).

The Charm, A Series of Elegant Colored Groups, with descriptive illustrations by Elizabeth F. Ellet, Philadelphia [c1847]. C & H MSS. show that Mrs. Ellet received $50 for her work, and that the edition was 1000 copies. Mrs. Ellet’s letter is dated June 24 [1847] (NYHS).

8 See, for example, Carl W. Drepperd, Early American Prints, New York, 1930, chapter VIII.

9 In their issue for January 1842 the editors of Arcturus claimed to be furnishing the only original illustrations offered by an American monthly magazine. Arcturus was surely not the first to do so; Graham’s, begun in January 1841, had ambitions in this same direction, as had The Knickerbocker and others earlier – even those of the eighteenth century (see Frank L. Mott, A History of American Magazines 1741-1850, p. 36). The Knickerbocker, incidentally, is not always to be trusted in its claim to original illustrations; vol. XIII (January-June 1839) contains at least three engravings from The Magnolia 1837.

10 The Atlantic Souvenir 1826, p. 267.

11 The North American Review, XXIV, 229 (January 1827).

12 The American Landscape, no. 1, New York, 1830. The quotations are from the prospectus included in the volume. Apparently no other numbers were issued, altho ten were planned. The preface and descriptive comments were written by Bryant.

14 Records of a Lifelong Friendship, ed. by H.H. Furness, Boston and New York, 1910, p. 18.

15 MS. letter, Carey, Lea & Carey to Asher B. Durand, November 5, 1827 (NYPL).

16 C & H MSS.

17 MS. letter, Carey, Lea & Carey to Asher B. Durand, May 7, 1829 (NYPL).

18 C & L MSS. Two MS. letters from Carey, Lea & Carey to Morse, dated February 5 and February 29, 1829 (LC), show that the artist was disappointed with the sum offered for his work, and that he wanted $75 for a design in one color, $100 for one in two colors. The publishers remarked that "Mr. Leslie in 1825 and 1826 charged only 8 guineas; we did not expect to pay more. We would furnish more occupation to our artists than we have in times past, but not if we have to pay $75 for each design." The matter apparently was settled by Morse’s accepting $50 and retaining the picture after it had been engraved.

19 C & H MSS. show that plates for The Literary Souvenir 1840 were purchased in London at £8 per thousand impressions. British gift book publishers were not always willing – or able – to use original engravings; for instance, two plates in The Keepsake 1828 may be found in Ten Epistles of Ovid, translated by the Rev. William W. Fitzthomas, London, 1807. Some British publishers, however, were extremely liberal in their payments for illustration. The Art-Union, I, 171 ff. (November 1839), points out that artists received from 20 to 150 guineas for the loan of their pictures for engraving, and that the cost of illustrating a single issue of The Amulet was nearly 1,200 guineas.

20 C & H MSS

22 For example, Friendship’s Offering 1843 was published with five plates from the volumes of that title issued for 1841 and for 1842.

23 The Reminiscences of a Very Old Man, New York, 1900, p. 234-5.

24 C & H MSS.

25 See, for example, Sartain’s portrait of E.L. Carey in The Diadem 1846.

26 There seem to be no other gift books sponsored by artists or engravers. One to be published by Carter, Hendee & Company of Boston was mentioned by Joseph Andrews in a letter to A.B. Durand dated October 1, 1832 (MS. letter, NYPL). Oliver Pelton, E. Gallaudet, and Andrews himself had already subscribed to the undertaking, Andrews explained. The plan apparently failed.

27 These volumes were published in New York in undated editions. They are advertised in The Literary World, III, 892 (December 2, 1848).

28 See, for example, The Gallery of Illustrious Americans…, ed. by C. Edwards Lester, New York, 1850 (binder’s title: "The Gift Book of the Republic"); or Gems of British Art…, New York, 1856. An earlier edition of the latter is advertised in Norton’s Literary Gazette, n.s. I, 570 (November 15, 1854.

29 Advertisement of Elam Bliss in the New York Morning Courier, December 16, 1828.

30 Advertisement of G. & C. & H. Carvill in the New York Evening Post, October 21, 1829.

31 Advertisement of W.B. Gilley in the New York Morning Courier, November 2, 1828.

32 Advertisement of Elam Bliss in the New York Evening Post, December 21, 1829.

33 There is, however a yellow paper-bound pamphlet, undated, marked simply "Illustrations of the Atlantic Souvenir" (YU). It contains eight pictures from The Atlantic Souvenir 1827 and 1828, and two others not recognized.

35 Frank T. Weitenkampf, American Graphic Art, New York, 1924, p. 81.

36 See, for example, the flower plate in The Port Folio for July 1818.

37 C & L MSS. See above, p. 17.

38 Joseph T. Buckingham, in his Personal Memoirs, Boston, 1852, I, 59, states that his monthly The Polyanthos (1806-07) was "the first attempt in Boston, (if not in the United States,) to publish a magazine with a regular series of portraits."

40 This book, with letterpress by Mrs. C.M. Kirkland, was published at three prices: $8, $10, and $20. See Norton’s Literary Advertiser, I, 48 (September 15, 1851).

41 Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, II, 276 (January 1851).



When Carey & Lea decided to bring out a gift book for 1826,1 they engaged Henry D. Gilpin, young University of Pennsylvania graduate, to oversee its preparation. Later Attorney-General of the United States and an editor of the Biography of the Signers to the Declaration of Independence, Gilpin at the time was but 24 years of age and had had little experience of any kind.2 Perhaps it was for this reason that Henry C. Carey and his partner Isaac Lea did not actually relinquish control of their annual. The titular editorship was in Gilpin’s hands, and he saw the seven volumes of the series thru the press, but it was in the name of the firm that contributions were solicited and arrangements for publication made. When the search for likely literary material began in 1825 it was Carey & Lea, not Gilpin, who approached James G. Percival, for instance, offering to pay $2 a page for 18 or 20 pages of his verse;3 it was Carey & Lea who about a year later wrote to the young Longfellow in Portland, saying that they would be flattered if he would contribute to their book and that they would "cheerfully pay such sum" for his work as he considered reasonable.4

In regard to the pictures in their annual, Carey & Lea were completely the arbiters. Occasional advice and assistance was given by Henry Pickering, son of Timothy Pickering, the Federalist leader; it was thru his offices, for example, that Asher B. Durand submitted certain engravings.5 The members of the firm, however, kept an eye on what was to adorn their gift book, even though, as they once wrote to Durand, they trusted Pickering’s judgment.6 When an engraving did not suit their taste, they offered suggestions for its improvement – if not their own suggestions, those of persons better qualified to comment.7 They imported paintings and designs for engravings – among them a copy of C.R. Leslie’s "the Duchess and Sancho" – 8 commissioned original designs,9 and in other ways sought to furnish the Souvenir with suitable plates. Although they were not always able to procure original pictures, they no doubt strove to render their annual a credit to their own taste and the skill of their countrymen.

Carey & Lea were generous employers. The amount expended on designs and engravings rose from about $600 for the first issue to nearly $2,500 for the last – that for 1832 – 10 and altho the writers employed were not as liberally rewarded, an average of no less than $350 was paid annually to them. Gilpin, the editor, received at first $100, later $200, and finally $225.

Carey & Lea had reason to be liberal, however, for their experiment in gift book publishing paid them well, as the following table shows:

Size of Edition: 2000
Cost: $2600
Wholesale Value: $3333

Size of Edition: 4500
Cost: $5040
Wholesale Value: $7500

Size of Edition: 7000
Cost: $8194
Wholesale Value: $11667

Size of Edition: 9500
Cost: $10752
Wholesale Value: $15770

Size of Edition: 10750
Cost: $12548
Wholesale Value: $18153

Size of Edition: 10500
Cost: $12609
Wholesale Value: $17337

Size of Edition: 10000
Cost: $12443
Wholesale Value: $16700

That the title of The Atlantic Souvenir was sold in 1832 to S.G. Goodrich and the publishers of The Token, so that the Philadelphia annual lost its identity, may have been due to the gradually declining profits. Such may not have been the reason, on the other hand, and we may be fairly certain of one thing only – that the merger was not consummated without a substantial payment.

Included in the volumes of the Souvenir are over fifty short stories, in each issue an average of seven. Twelve are by James Kirke Paulding, while Lydia M. Child, Charles Sealsfield, Catharine M. Sedgwick, Richard Penn Smith, William Leete Stone, "Godfrey Wallace", and a half dozen others contributed one or more each. None of these stories is remarkable in its technique; for the most part they were loosely constructed, with the author worrying about his plot – if at all – only in the concluding pages. If Hawthorne and Poe, as is said, by example and preaching improved the craftsmanship of American short stories, their significance has not been exaggerated.11

39 The Bookseller’s Medium, I, 227 (January 15, 1859).

The verse in The Atlantic Souvenir came in large measure from James Nelson Barker, G. Wallingford Clarke, Frederick S. Eckhard, J.G. Percival, and Charles West Thomson, altho other more reputable poets, including Bryant, Halleck, and Irving, are represented. Some of Barker’s satiric effusions are amusing, and there are a few pleasing lyrics, but it cannot be said that Carey & Lea’s annual published much great poetry. In common with many other American gift books, The Atlantic Souvenir drew its material principally from dilettantes, and the Boston satirist Snelling was not far from right when he wrote:

"Fresh lots of fools our markets yearly yield,
Whole cohorts from Manhattoes take the field;
As many more does Philadelphia rear;
Vide the pages of her Souvenir."12

Much of The Atlantic Souvenir letterpress is either anonymous or pseudonymous, and apparently it must remain so, even though the Carey & Lea papers include a sort of contributors’ pay roll. This document ordinarily lists contributors by name, with the number of pages of prose or verse with which each was credited and the payment therefor – and this generally in the order in which the pieces were printed. Its usefulness is limited, however, because certain writings were submitted anonymously to the publishers, so that the list often cites titles rather than authors’ names, and sometimes under the classification "Anon" groups several pieces as one.

The pay roll is of little use in the case of the first Souvenir – that for 1826 – which contains only a few signed articles. It shows that Paulding was paid $200, Miss Sedgwick $50, and Barker $70, but it does not list the number of pages credited to each. Paulding’s contributions – three stories signed "***P" – have been recognized by his biographer,13 and in their total represent a logical amount of work for the sum paid. Miss Sedgwick’s tale, "The Catholic Iroquois," is easily identified, as it is signed "By the Author of Redwood," and it, too, represents a logical amount of work for the sum paid. As for Barker, two poems, "A Legend of the Forest" and "Freedom," have been singled out as his.14 When one considers the fee he received it becomes plain that there are also others.

The only other names listed on the 1826 pay roll are "Editor" and what seems to read "Walsh." The latter probably stands for Robert Walsh, editor of the Philadelphia National Gazette, altho the preface to the Souvenir 1826 mentions a contributor by the name of Waln, not Walsh. Robert Waln, a minor Philadelphia poet who died in 1824, may have been meant, and perhaps certain of his work was published posthumously. Again, "Waln" may have been a misprint for "Walsh." In any case, it has not been possible to determine what these persons (or this person) contributed.

Altho his name is not on the pay roll, William Cullen Bryant sent in three poems. These – "June," "Oh Fairest of the Rural Maids," and "Nature" – were printed without signature. The first two are listed in a Bryant bibliography, but the third, while recognized in another connection, has been omitted in the principal catalog.15 It is barely possible that James Fenimore Cooper contributed to the Souvenir 1826, for shortly before the next issue was published, Grenville Mellen wrote to Isaac Lea: "I do not see that Cooper has done anything this time, and I presume he must be either very lazy or in excellent business, to neglect you under the fine offers which you informed me were made by you."16 The implication would seem to be that the novelist had been a contributor.

The 1827 pay roll is more complete than the earlier one, and from the order of the listing of names and the number of pages of prose or verse assigned to each writer, all unsigned pieces but one – "Absence" – may be identified. "Albano," "Atlantis," "Imagination," "A Legend of the Grisons,"17 and "Scenes on the Thames" – all unsigned – are probably by H.D. Gilpin, since together they make up the space credited to "Editor" in the pay roll. "The History of a Ray of Light" is by Samuel Gilman.18 "The Infant Napoleon" and "Canova" are by Joseph Hopkinson, author of "Hail Columbia."19 "Winter," "Stanzas," and "To Sophie," all signed "A.P.L.," are apparently the work of one Lammot.20 "The Cross and Crescent" and "The Oak of My Fathers," both signed “Σ,” seem to have been written by a person named Sargeant – probably that “J.O. Sargeant of Natchez” who contributed a tale to the Souvenir 1832, as we shall see, and not John Osborne Sargent, then a Harvard undergraduate.21 "The Wood Pewee," signed "T.F.," is patently by Thomas Fisher, and "A Biographical Sketch of the Life of Alexander Wilson" apparently by Robert Walsh.

In The Atlantic Souvenir 1828, "Little Red Riding Hood" is by James Nelson Barker,22 and "The Tomb of Wilson," signed "T.F.," by Thomas Fisher. Gilpin surely wrote "Newstead Abbey," signed "G.," and probably "The Faithful Friend," also signed "G.," as well as ‘Ischia and Procida," subtitled "Recollections of a Solitary Traveller."23 Joseph Hopkinson contributed "Anne Page, Slender and Swallow," and perhaps "Virginia,"24 "Counsel," "Song," and "To My Heart" – all translations from the Russian – are by William D. Lewis.25 Three short poems: "To Emma," "To Clara," and "To Myra," each signed "R.," are apparently by someone named Rush – perhaps by Gilpin’s friend Richard Rush, who was American Minister to England between 1817 and 1825 and not above dabbling in verse.

In The Atlantic Souvenir 1829, "Death" is by W.B.O. Peabody,26 "Solitude" and "Love and Friendship" probably by W.D. Lewis, and "Sonnets to Ambition" and "Sonnets to Fancy" by Prosper M. Wetmore.27 The unsigned "Lady of Ruthven" is by Richard Penn Smith, as the author himself later admitted.28 From the pay roll it appears that "The Islands of the Pacific" was written by J.R. Eckhard, "The Methodist’s Story" and "The Catholic" by some one named Peabody. "Narantsauk" may be assigned to an author designated only as "Sedgwick’s friend," and "A Tale of Poictiers" to "Sedgwick."29

No definite assignments of authorship of the unsigned pieces in The Atlantic Souvenir 1830 can be made. The following identifications are tentative: "The Cottage," W.D. Lewis; "Love’s Falconrie," Theodore Sedgwick; "The Parting Hour," "The Portrait," and "The Fisher Boy," H.D. Gilpin; "Reconciliation," James Nelson Barker; "Old Times," – Peabody.

Only one anonymity in The Atlantic Souvenir 1831 has been uncovered: "Pericles" is by W.B.O. Peabody.30

In the final volume of the series – that for 1832 – "The Indian Bride" is apparently by J.O. Sargeant of Natchez, and "Tiger Island," "Patrick Lyon," and "The Mother’s Grave" by H.D. Gilpin.


The Atlantic Souvenir 1826 was published on December 8, 1825; that for 1827 on December 4, 1826; 1828 on November 3, 1827; 1829 on October 25, 1828; 1830 on October 21, 1829; 1831 on October 16, 1830; 1832 on October 29, 1831 (see the Philadelphia National Gazette and Literary Register for these dates).

2 See Eliza Gilpin, A Memorial of Henry D. Gilpin, Philadelphia, 1860, and "H.D. Gilpin," in the Democratic Review, VIII, 512-35 (December 1840).

3 MS. letter dated March 19, 1825 (YU). Percival apparently did not take to the offer immediately, for his first signed contribution is in The Atlantic Souvenir 1827.

4 MS. Letter dated March 17, 1826, now in the Craigie House, Cambridge. A few weeks later, just before sailing for Europe, Longfellow called on Carey & Lea and sold them four poems: "Song of the Birds," "The Burial of the Minnisink," "The Spirit of Poetry," and "The Dead Bird, a Ballad" (see Life of…Longfellow, ed. by Samuel Longfellow, Boston and New York, 1899, I, 75). The first two were published in the Souvenir 1827, the third in that for 1828, while the fourth apparently was never used. C & L MSS. show that Longfellow received $5 for each poem printed.

5 See MS. letter, Pickering to Durand, December 2, 1826 (NYPL).

6 MS. letter dated December 18, 1827 (NYPL).

7 See MS. letter, H.C. Carey to Durand, May 23, 1827 (NYPL). In this Carey quotes the suggestions of Eliza Leslie and Thomas Sully for the improvement of Durand’s plate of C.R. Leslie’s "Ann page," eventually published in the Souvenir 1828.

8 See MS. letter, Carey & Lea to Durand, January 1, 1831 (NYPL). This picture appeared in the volume for 1832; a MS. receipt dated March 7, 1831 (NYPL) reveals that the picture "was copied by Miss [Eliza?] Leslie, under her brother’s eye, and finished in part by himself."

9 See above, p. 42.

10 These figures and those following are compiled from C & L MSS.

11 Hawthorne and Poe, incidentally, both were eager to contribute to the Souvenir. The former no doubt would have done so had not the annual ended when it did, for early in 1832 he offered to send one of his tales to Carey & Lea (see MS. letter dated January 27, 1832; HSPA). As for Poe, he addressed the publishers with characteristic fulsomeness: "I know of nothing which could give me greater pleasure," he wrote, "than to see any of my productions, in so becoming a dress and in such good society as The Souvenir would ensure them" (letter to Carey, Lea & Carey, July 28, 1829, quoted in Hervey Allen, Israfel, New York, 1927, I, 250-1). Poe’s amiable offer apparently was not accepted.

12 W.J. Snelling, Truth, a Gift for Scribblers, Boston, 1832, p. 63.

13 Amos L. Herold, James Kirke Paulding, New York, 1926. The stories are "The Eve of St. John," "A Tale of Mystery," and "The Spanish Girl of the Cordilleras."

14 Paul H. Musser, James Nelson Barker, Philadelphia, 1929, p. 118.

15 H.C. Sturges, in his bibliography published in The Poetical Works of William Cullen Bryant, New York, 1907, does not mention "Nature" on p. cx, where it should be cited, but he does list it in the chronology, p. lxviii. As published in the annual, "Nature" contains a fourth stanza which apparently has never been collected. It is this stanza which serves to relate the verses to the engraving they illustrate in the Souvenir. The picture shows a baby who had innocently wandered to the edge of a precipice being drawn from danger by sight of his mother’s proferred breast:

"Thus where the cliff, abrupt and steep,
Looks down upon the sullen deep,
Far from his mother’s side, the child
Sat playing on the verge, and smiled: -
She laid her bosom bare, and won
From the dread brink her truant son."

Bryant received $10 for the three poems in the annual – an amount proportionately "greater than for any other pieces in the book," Carey & Lea explained in sending the money, "as at that rate it would cost us nearly one thousand dollars for the whole matter, which we could not afford to pay, for even as it is we made little or nothing by the book" (MS. letter dated February 20, 1826; NYPL).

16 MS. letter dated October 15, 1826 (HSPA).

17 Edward Z. Davis, in his "List of Translations of German Prose" published in German-American Annals, n.s. III, 542 (December 1905), without explanation attributes this story to George Bancroft. Bancroft’s signed contributions to this volume of The Atlantic Souvenir – three verse translations from Goethe – are his only contributions, the pay roll shows.

18 Reprinted in Gilman’s Contributions to Literature, Boston 1856.

19 In a letter dated November 30, 1932, Mr. Burton A. Konkle, biographer of Hopkinson, wrote in response to my inquiry that "there can be no doubt whatever" that these two articles (they are really one), as well as "Anne Page, Slender and Swallow," in the Souvenir 1828, are by Joseph Hopkinson.

20 Philadelphia directories reveal that a merchant named Daniel Lammot lived in the city between 1825 and 1830; A.P. Lammot may have been of his family. "A.P.L." signed articles in the Souvenir 1826 and 1828, as well.

21 John Osborne Sargent, however, contributed to The Atlantic Souvenir 1832 under the name of Charles Sherry. For a list of his pennames see p. 45 of Julia M. Johnson’s bibliographical appendix to Epes Sargent of Gloucester and His Descendants, Boston and New York, 1923.

22 Credited in Paul H. Musser, op, cit., p. 118.

23 "Newstead Abbey" is reprinted under Gilpin’s name in The Philadelphia Book (1836), p. 216-17. If "Ischia and Procida" is correctly attributed, then Gilpin wrote the articles subtitled "Recollections of a Solitary Traveller" in the Souvenir 1826, and the one thus marked in the 1829 volume.

24 See above, note 19. Mr. Konkle does not believe that "Virginia" is by Hopkinson, but since the evidence of the pay roll points to the fact, it is included here. Hopkinson was credited with ten pages of prose in The Atlantic Souvenir 1828; "Anne Page" runs about four, "Virginia" six.

25 These three poems would account for the two pages of verse credited to "W.D. Lewis." The last is reprinted in Lewis’s little volume of translations from the Russian entitled The Bokchesarian Fountain, Philadelphia.

26 Reprinted under Peabody’s name in The Poets and Poetry of America, ed. by Rufus W. Griswold, Philadelphia, 1842, p. 203.

27 These poems are included in Wetmore’s Lexington, with Other Fugitive Poems, New York, 1830.

28 See Smith’s Letter in The Yankee and Boston Literary Gazette, I, 407 (December 17, 1828).

29 Catharine M. Sedgwick signed stories in five volumes of The Atlantic Souvenir, but none in those for 1828 and 1829. "A Tale of Poictiers" may be hers, therefore – but more likely it was written by her brother Theodore Sedgwick, who was probably the "Mr. Sedgwick" who contributed a tale to the Souvenir 1830.

30 Included in Peabody’s MS. notebook entitled "Lines Written at Different Times, 1816-1827" (HCL) and in The Literary Remains of the Late W.B.O. Peabody, Boston, 1850.



New York City had loyal citizens, partisans unwilling to sit calmly by as Philadelphia gloried in her gift book. Late in 1827, two years after The Atlantic Souvenir had appeared, came the initial volume of The Talisman.1 Differing from its fellows in that it was the product of a literary coterie rather than a periodical open to the country at large, The Talisman is in some ways the best of American gift books, and on all counts one of the most interesting. Its prose and verse came in large measure from three talented men: William Cullen Bryant, Robert C. Sands, and Gulian C. Verplanck. Sands, graduated from Columbia College in 1815, had by 1827 had considerable journalistic experience. Verplanck, graduate of Columbia in 1801, had become a Congressman from New York. Bryant had already achieved renown as a poet and had begun his long career on the New York Evening Post.

The idea of a New York gift book seems to have come from Elam Bliss, Broadway bookseller and publisher of Sands’s short-lived Atlantic Magazine and its successor, The New-York Review and Atheneum Magazine, with which both Bryant and Sands were connected. Pressed by Bliss to undertake the editorship of an annual, Sands turned to his friends Bryant and Verplanck, and, according to the latter,2 The Talisman was the result. Bliss was to publish to all appearances a typical annual – nicely bound, neatly illustrated, well printed, appearing at the proper season for holiday consumption. Yet ambitious literary folk the country over were not to be asked to contribute. Much as the memoirs of Martinus Scriblerus and The History of John Bull had come from the association of Pope, Swift, Arbuthnot, Gay, and other Queen Anne wits, The Talisman was the product of a select group living in and about Manhattan.

New York City in the 1820’s was the seat of considerable literary and artistic activity. There was the Literary Confederacy,3 founded in 1816 and numbering among its members Sands and a young doctor named John Neilson Jr.; the National Academy of Design, instituted in 1826, which, while composed principally of artists and engravers, had associated with it in professorial capacity such men as Bryant and Verplanck; and an organization called the Sketch Club, which embraced the three chief writers for The Talisman, as well as Fitz-Greene Halleck, James Hillhouse, John Inman, and a number of artists – John G. Chapman, Thomas Cole, A.B. Durand, Charles C. Ingham, Henry Inman, S.F.B. Morse, and R.W. Weir. The Sketch Club is variously described as having been founded in 18204 and as having grown out of the newly-established National Academy of Design about 1826 or 1827, upon the death of Cooper’s famous "Lunch."5 At all events, it was also known as "The XXI" (having been originally limited to 21 members) and later became the Century Association.6 The Talisman in both letterpress and illustration may be traced in most particulars to members of these inter-related organizations. It sprang from the conscious intellectual groupings of the city.

As in the occasional miscellanies of a century before, articles in The Talisman were not signed, and the entire literary contents was attributed to a certain Francis Herbert. Under cover of this imaginary genius a decorous Congressman and a pair of rising young journalists could indulge their wit and learning freely, as another group of young New Yorkers had sported under pen-names twenty years earlier, in Salmagundi. Not until the volumes of The Talisman were reissued in 1833 as Miscellanies First Published under the Name of The Talisman was the pseudonymity abandoned.

There was little reason, however, for ignorance as to the real authors of Bliss’s volumes. The mask of Francis Herbert was not worn very tightly. In the preface to the first issue Mr. Herbert invited suspicion concerning his identity by protesting too much:

"I detest all quackery, and the examples of great men do not sanctify it in my eyes. The trick of Junius and Walter Scott to attract the public attention to their writings by making their real names a subject of mystery, always disgusted me. I therefore subscribe my name without reserve."
Francis Herbert

In the preface to the following volume – that for 1829 – the extravagant tone was maintained, with Herbert proclaiming his astonishment over the fact that some had "insinuated doubts" as to his reality. And even in the third and final issue the ruse remained, to tantalize the ingenuous and to bring knowing smiles to the initiated. Bryant, Sands, and Verplanck made the most of both their joke and their literary opportunity.

It is probable that The Talisman was not much of a joke to Elam Bliss. He seems to have made little money from it. Many years later Bryant wrote of the publisher in most friendly terms, describing him as "of so generous a temper as often to yield his own just rights in order to meet the expectations of authors for whom he published."7 But for a time the annual paid its way, and some months after the first volume had appeared, Sands remarked that "Bliss says he has made himself whole. He has about 900 [copies] on hand and demands are made for single copies more or less daily."8 Apparently the second volume was also financially satisfactory, or at least promised to be, for even before it went on sale, the third was planned, Sands writing to Verplanck as follows:

"Dr. Bliss wishes to publish another Talisman. He proposes to print an edition of 5000, to pay an artist for superintending the engravers etc and to take all the trouble from the writers and to pay Mr. Herbert $1200 or $1500 if he can have manuscript by the first of July or August. He says he can afford to do so, and make a profit, if we will agree to this proposition. Bryant assents to it, and I am disposed to."9

A fourth volume, however, could not be managed, even though Bliss was willing to underwrite it on a percentage basis after it had been decided, as Sands wrote to Verplanck, that the publisher was not able to "make an offer worthy of Mr. Herbert’s notice, in the way of purchasing the copy right."10 The same letter shows that Sands had tried in vain to sell The Talisman to Carey & Lea for $2000. According to all indications, Bliss was a poor business man, altho perfectly honest ("rather obfuscated" on all matters "except the price of primers," as Sands once remarked), and the three friends obtained from the final volume little profit. Whether they received anything from the republication of the series in 1833 is not known. Sands by that time, however, had died.

All available wires were pulled to assure the success of the annual. In the words of Sands, plans were laid to make "all the organs of public opinion wind one general and simultaneous blast and roar of admiration." Thru their own newspaper connections Bryant and Sands could secure a flattering introduction to New York City readers, and Verplanck in Washington was in a position to make the proper advances to the many representatives of journals there. But in truth there was little need for puffing. The literary and artistic quality of The Talisman was clearly high. When an unpleasant note sounded in Philadelphia, where lurked Robert Walsh, editor of Carey & Lea’s American Quarterly Review, Sands was not dismayed. "We shall embrace every opportunity," he hastened to inform Verplanck, "of having him described…as he truly is, a hack of Mr. Carey, hired to puff only his own bookseller’s publications, including his own magazine."11

The minor contributors to The Talisman – contributors by invitation, no doubt – seem to have numbered six. Fitz-Greene Halleck wrote "Red Jacket," in the volume for 1829.12 John Inman, brother of the artist Henry Inman and later editor of the Columbian Lady’s and Gentleman’s Magazine, was the author of "The Little Old Man of Coblentz," in the same issue.13 Dr. John Neilson Jr. translated from the French "The Butterfly," in The Talisman 1828.14 John Howard Bryant, Illinois farmer brother of William Cullen Bryant, contributed to the volume for 1829 the sonnet beginning "Beautiful streamlet."15 The "Shenandoah at Harper’s Ferry," in the preceding issue, was by "an English gentleman, of the name of Moore, who lived several years in this country, and who died of the Yellow Fever in New-York, in 1821."16 "The Serenade," also in the first Talisman, was probably written by S.F.B. Morse.17

It is impossible to ferret out the individual work of the three major contributors, but on the basis of what may be definitely assigned, Bryant was responsible for the largest portion. In the case of poems, nearly two-thirds (twenty out of thirty-three) are Bryant’s, since they are published in his collected works. They include such well-known pieces as "To the Past," "To the Evening Wind," "Innocent Child and Snow-White Flower," and "The Close of Autumn."18 Bryant’s prose contributions number at least eight, most of which have been reprnted.19 Many of Sands’s contributions appear in his collected works.20 As for Verplanck, some of his pieces were mentioned by name in a memorial address delivered shortly after his death.21

The fact that close collaboration marked the preparation of Talisman copy prevents a precise declaration of authorship. According to Bryant’s son-in-law, many of the articles were written jointly, or set down by one of the friends after consultation with the others. The circumstances of composition were sometimes these:

"Mr. Sands resided at Hoboken, where his father’s hospitable house was made the headquarters of the trio.… Wandering through the tangled undergrowth of the woods…the editors would concoct their projects for the annual.… On returning home they would reduce their wandering talks to manuscript, Sands, as the readiest penman, commonly acting as amanuensis, while the others walked the room or lolled upon chairs."22

Time and again when Verplanck was in Washington, Sands or Bryant wrote to him about subjects "which some of us may weave into a narrative," or asking for material which might be employed with effect.23 "Reminiscences of New York," for example, published in two sections – one in The Talisman 1829, the other in that for 1830 – is partly the work of Bryant, as his biographer admits,24 but Verplanck very likely had a share in it, too, as one heroic deed there narrated – the saving of the Duke of Clarence from drowning – had been accomplished by Verplanck’s great-uncle.25 "Scenes in Washington," a somewhat disconnected and often witty account of official life, also published in the second and third volumes, is partly by Sands,26 but Verplanck’s familiarity with the capital city must have been drawn upon.

The Talisman is quite free from the airs of the average American literary annual, apparently because the oppressive sentimentality of the time was not part of the Sketch Club atmosphere. There appear to have been present instead a gentle masculinity and humor which are gratifyingly reminiscent of the work of Irving and his fellows. In the very form of The Talisman may the Irving influence be detected: as in Bracebridge Hall, one story often leads into another, and one sketch prepares the way for the next. A more definite influence was exerted upon the subject matter, and in some respects The Talisman is a successor to Salmagundi.

Salmagundi, issued in twenty numbers during the space of one year, was more strictly a chronicle, of course, yet the authors of The Talisman included in each issue a few pieces especially interesting to New Yorkers, even if they had no intention of commenting exclusively upon Manhattan’s passing show. Verplanck’s "The Peregrinations of Petrus Mudd," for example, is said to be the history of a well-known New Yorker,27 and "Mr. De Viellecour and His Neighbors," in The Talisman 1828, appears to be a veiled account of actual persons, for the characters of the tale enter from time to time into the letters which Sands wrote to Verplanck.28 As a matter of fact, Francis Herbert concluded his story of Mr. De Viellecour by begging pardon for having made "very free use of the names of certain individuals" – an apology which may or may not have been seriously proffered.

It should not be gathered that any considerable portion of The Talisman is made up of local comment, however, for about as many prose articles deal with foreign subjects as with American. One reviewer, indeed, chidingly remarked a "want of patriotic incident."29 There are tales of Persia, Cuba, or Greece; essays on Spanish, Provençal, and Greek poetry; and translations from a half dozen languages. Quite plainly, the current bugaboo of patriotism did not frighten the editors, though they were aware of it; they printed, as Mr. Herbert explained in the final issue, the pictures they thought worth printing, "notwithstanding that I have been told it is unpatriotic to admit among the embellishments of my volume any views of foreign scenery."

The illustrations in The Talisman are small and hence hardly more significant in themselves than those in other annuals, but the circumstances under which they were produced merit brief mention. The three issues contain 25 engravings; of these only about a half dozen are of American scenery or story, with not more than three definitely associated with New York and its neighborhood. But in New York and its neighborhood resided very probably all the designers and engravers, so that even were the illustrations principally of the outer world, they need not have offended an ardent civic spirit.

Closely related to the Sketch Club, as has already been pointed out, was the National Academy of Design. With this institution were associated the eight artists whose work was engraved for The Talisman, not to mention the fabulous Francis Herbert, who signed four drawings.30 The engravers themselves cannot be classified thru want of biographical information, but the three most frequently represented – A.B. Durand, G.W. Hatch, and Peter Maverick – were so connected. The embellishments thus could enjoy whatever respectability their academic origin may have lent, and they probably represent the best work of their sort then obtainable in America.31

When the annual was projected, according to Mr. Herbert’s first preface, Inman, Morse, and others offered their work for reproduction. With the second volume in prospect, Sands wrote to Verplanck:

"The Gentlemen belonging to the National Academy are all very anxious to lend their aid next year, in furnishing designs.… Morton is very anxious to try his hand – and Mr. Morse will cheerfully assist us. In fact there will be a competition among the promising members of the Academy, if I am correctly informed, as to being engaged in illustrating The Talisman."22

In the preface to the third and final issue, after greeting his patrons in his inimitable style, Mr. Herbert blandly discussed the illustration:

"The most delightful source of entertainment I have discovered in the city whence I now salute the public, has been the converse which I have enjoyed with its rising artists.… Having intercommuned freely with members of the Sketch Club, when I was promised by an amateur friend that they would furnish me with a dozen or more illustrations for another Talisman, I proceeded forthwith to arrange my casual effusions for publication.

I have been much gratified with the manner in which this pledge has been redeemed by my ingenious young friend. I cannot avoid, however, expressing my regret on account of two omissions, which I must ascribe to his want of care. The first is that of a beautiful landscape, painted by Inman at my own request, to accompany and explain my story of the Indian Spring;…what I complain of still more, is, that no ornament has been procured for my pages, from the graceful pencil of the painter of the White Plume – the President of that interesting and useful club which I have named. How this happened I confess I do not know."33

The personal references, the mild scolding of the "young friend," the mention of illustrations not in the books rather than those to be found there bear witness to the intimacy of the group which prepared The Talisman and to the spirit in which the project was carried out. At first the illustration seems to have been the concern of Bryant, Sands, and Verplanck; under the plan of the third volume, however, as we have seen, Bliss was to "pay an artist for superintending the engravers." It was John Neilson Jr. who was entrusted with this task.34


The Talisman 1828 was published on December 18, 1827, that for 1829 on December 24, 1828, and that for 1830 on November 10, 1829 (see the New York Evening Post for these dates).

2 G.C. Verplanck, "Memoir of Robert C. Sands," in The Writings of Robert C. Sands, New York, 1834, I. 20.

3 The MS. Minute books of this organization and its MS. periodical called "The Aeronaut" are now in CU. NYHS has much relevant material grouped as the Aeronaut Papers.

4 See Proceedings of the Century Association in Honor of…Gulian C. Verplanck, New York, 1870, p. 70.

5 See Thomas S. Cummings, Historic Annals of the National Academy of Design, Philadelphia, 1865, p. 110.

6 See J.W. Wilson, Bryant and His Friends, New York, 1886, p. 400.

7 MS. letter to E.A. Duyckinck, May 28, 1855 (NYPL).

8 MS. letter to Verplanck, Marcy 26, 1828 (NYHS).

9 MS. letter dated December 18, 1828 (NYHS).

10 MS. letter dated May 11, 1830 (NYHS).

11 MS. letter dated December 23, 1827 (NYHS).

12 Cf. N.F. Adkins, Fitz-Greene Halleck, New Haven, 1830, p. 235.

13 See J.G. Wilson, op. cit., p. 384.

14 Neilson’s translation may be found in the MS. collection of his poems now in NYHS.

15 See J.G. Wilson, op. cit., p. 384.

16 "Advertisement" in vol. II of the reissue of The Talisman called Miscellanies. This Moore may be the John Moore who died in New York on November 14, 1821, aged 47 (see obituary notice in the New York Gazette and General Advertiser, November 15, 1821).

17 "The Serenade" is ascribed to "Morse" by a hand-written note in the index of vol. I of H.W. Longfellow’s set of the Miscellanies (HCL). Since other attributions there listed are correct, this one may well be.

18 It was pointed out in a notice of The Talisman in The North American Review XXVI, 263 (January 1828), that "The Close of Autumn" had appeared some years before as by "an author certainly ‘of no mean note.’ " The poem had been printed as "The Death of the Flowers," signed "B.," in the New-York Review, I, 485-6 (November 1825). Thus Francis Herbert’s disguise was pierced. The same reviewer remarked that Moore’s "Shenandoah at Harper’s Ferry" had also been earlier attributed to someone other than Herbert. It seems that no other of the pieces in The Talisman was a reprint, however, altho Bryant’s story "Phanette des Gantelmes," in the volume for 1830, is a re-working of his review of Jehan de Nostre Dame’s Vies des plus célèbres et anciens poètes Provensaux, published in the New-York Review for July 1825.

19 In vol. I of Prose Writings of William Cullen Bryant, ed. By Parke Godwin, New York, 1901. See also Parke Godwin, A Biography of…Bryant, New York, 1883, I, 241 n.

20 The Writings of Robert C. Sands, New York, 1834.

21 "Gulian Crommelin Verplanck," in Prose Writings of…Bryant, I, 394-431.

22 Parke Godwin, A Biography of…Bryant, I, 237-8.

23 See Bryant’s letter quoted ibid., I, 246, or Sands’s MS. letters dated December 7, 1827; "Friday night" (ca. December 15, 1827); February 12, 1828; January 11 [1829]; February 1, 1829 (NYHS).

24 Parke Godwin, op. cit., I, 341 n.

25 See Proceedings of the Century Association in Honor of…Verplanck, p. 20.

26 "Scenes in Washington" is reprinted in The Writings of…Sands, II, 159-266.

27 See The Prose Writers of America, ed. By Rufus W. Griswold, Philadelphia, 1852, p. 36. Verplanck’s tale is in The Talisman 1830.

28 See MS. letters dated December 7, 1827; "Friday night" (ca. December 15, 1827); and March 25, 1828 (NYHS).

29 The North American Review, XXVIII, 488 (April 1829).

30 The artists and the number of their contributions: John Inman, 6; R.W. Weir, 5; "F. Herbert," 4; John Neilson Jr., 3; T.S. Cummings, 2; S.F.B. Morse, 2; Thomas Cole, 1; J.L. Morton, 1; H.J. Morton, 1. "F. Herbert" is probably Neilson in this connection.

31 The Talisman 1830 was awarded the premium of the American Institute of the City of New York, an organization created in 1828 to encourage agriculture, commerce, manufacturing, and the arts (see the New York Evening Post, October 21, 1829).

32 MS. letter dated "Friday night" (ca. December 15, 1827) (NYHS).

33 The "story of the Indian Spring" is by Bryant. Charles C. Ingham is "the painter of the White Plume."

34 See MS. letters, Sands to Verplanck, December 18, 1828; February 1, 1829 (NYHS).



Two years after Carey & Lea had launched The Atlantic Souvenir and at about the same time that Elam Bliss began his Talisman, Samuel Griswold Goodrich introduced in Boston an annual of his own. This was The Token, which ran for fifteen years, beginning in 1827.1

A bit over thirty years of age, Goodrich had been living in Boston only a short while – but long enough to be willing to support that city’s claim to literary equality with the then august Philadelphia. For more than a decade previously he had been a Hartford bookseller and publisher, and by 1827 his profitable career as Peter Parley, story-teller and oracle to children, had already begun.2 By virtue of its editor’s contacts and experience The Token was certain to be a successful imitator of The Atlantic Souvenir.

Whether Goodrich alone was responsible for the establishment of The Token is not certain, but he was its guiding spirit, editor in name, at least, of thirteen of the fifteen issues, publisher of the first two, and the most reliable of contributors. N.P. Willis assisted with the editing of the first volume and was in charge of the second, that for 1829, receiving for his work $200.3 He may have helped with the third, since in the preface to the book Goodrich acknowledged another’s assistance. Epes Sargent is said to have been an editor;4 it is possible that during Goodrich’s absence in Europe he saw a part of The Token 1833 thru the press – or, more exactly, a part of The Token and Atlantic Souvenir 1833, for with that issue the name of Carey & Lea’s annual was taken over. In the preface a "friend’s" aid is mentioned.

The Token 1842 was prepared under entirely different auspices, Goodrich having with the 1841 issue relinquished control. This final volume of the series was to be edited by C.C. Felton, George S. Hillard, Longfellow, "and that set," James Russell Lowell remarked in February, 1841.5 The actual editor was Hillard, who assumed the task of reducing to proper proportions material collected by the new publisher, David H. Williams of Boston.6 It is not possible to measure the extent of the influence exerted by Lowell’s "set"; it was thru Longfellow, however, that John F. Brinckmann, a Plattdeutsch poet then living in New York, contributed to the annual certain translations from Jean Paul Richter.7

34 Burton’s Gentleman’s Magazine, I, 278 (October 1837).

Since no record of the business fortunes of The Token seems to be preserved, one can but speculate upon them. Things must have gone well for some time, else the venture would have been early abandoned. The last six issues appeared under the imprints of five different publishers, however, and such variety suggests hard times. It was declared in the 1830 preface that the annual "scarcely paid its expenses," and the 1834 foreword announced with as much sorrow as pride that "each edition of the work requires an investment of nearly fifteen thousand dollars." The 1838 volume, larger and more elaborate than its predecessors (selling, incidentally, for $5 8) was such a financial failure that in the following issue the publisher stated that they had found it expedient to return to the former size and to reduce the price. In the volume for 1841, the last under the Goodrich regime, the introductory words were gloomy:

"After having sustained this work for fourteen years, the Editor has felt reluctant to abandon it; otherwise, amid the general depression of the times, and the waning of that favor once bestowed upon annuals, it had breathed its last. It is better to die than to outlive the world’s welcome; and, if we could really believe that the present indifference to souvenirs were more than a caprice, we should only seek a decent burial for the Token, and find solace in writing an epitaph full of bitter reflections upon the fickleness of fortune and favor."

Goodrich’s fears were only too well founded, for the following year, as we have seen, the annual was transferred to other and presumably hopeful hands. But The Token could not flourish, even with an infusion of Harvard blood. It sank to the grave, no doubt without the decent burial Goodrich had piously promised.

The Token during its lifetime published over 150 pictures, an average of ten in each issue. Fully twenty were executed by John Cheney, generally held one of the best of his craft in nineteenth century America, and in later years Goodrich prided himself on having encouraged Cheney and claimed that for a period the engraver had been "wholly employed for the Token."Thru the agency of Henry Pickering, who had interested himself also in The Atlantic Souvenir, Goodrich gave work to Asher B. Durand, sometimes sending him paintings to be engraved, at others asking him to select his own subjects.10 Before his long term as editor was ended, Goodrich or the publishers with whom he was associated employed for Token plates over forty American engravers. When the annual came into Williams’s hands in 1841, the former practice of wide patronage was abandoned, and one firm, Rawdon, Wright, Hatch & Smillie of New York, did all the work.

Some pictures in The Token were made from special designs. The 1830 preface states that six paintings by American artists had been commissioned, and even though no other announcement of exactly the same import is to be found, there is little doubt that at least some of the work by George L. Brown, J.G. Chapman, Thomas Cole, Alvan Fisher, George Harvey, and Henry Inman11 was requested, and paid for accordingly. Yet at other times other and less praiseworthy means were resorted to, and one irate reviewer condemned the pictures in the volume for 1834 as "not only all copies, but copies of stale prints, familiar to the public for the last two or three years."12

The most notable of literary contributors to The Token was Nathaniel Hawthorne, and it is, perhaps, in connection with him that the series is today most frequently remembered. There is some confusion concerning his work there, and a good deal of disagreement as to whether Goodrich helped or hindered him. What is indubitable is that Goodrich was the first editor and publisher to give Hawthorne’s work a wide circulation, that Hawthorne’s reputation commenced to grow as a result of his many stories in The Token, and that his first successful book, Twice-Told Tales, appeared with some help from Goodrich – the majority of tales there collected having earlier adorned the annual.

Thirty-six stories published in The Token have at one time or another been associated with Hawthorne. Twenty-seven of these were undoubtedly his, for he either collected them later in book form or signed them unmistakably in the annual. Of the remaining nine, at least four were written by others – Mrs. L.M. Child, Edward Everett, or Longfellow – and are accordingly credited in the next pages. One can only guess whether the other five are Hawthorne’s.13

Among the other authors of prose in The Token are Timothy Flint, Sarah J. Hale, James Hall, Eliza Leslie, Catharine M. Sedgwick, William Leete Stone, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and N.P. Willis. As for the verse, its level is marked by the fact that Goodrich, Hannah F. Gould, Grenville Mellen, and Lydia H. Sigourney are most frequently represented. There are a few pieces by Holmes, Longfellow, and Lowell, or by such less well-known writers as Charles Fenno Hoffman, J.G. Percival, H.T. Tuckerman, and Sarah H. Whitman, but little of quality. Even after Goodrich gave over control the results were not perceptibly better. Bryant, Emerson, Halleck, Hawthorne, Longfellow, and Lowell were to contribute to the final volume, it was said,14 but apparently Longfellow and Lowell alone of the group did so.

In the letter just cited Lowell added that he had sent to the publisher of The Token 1842 a ballad for which he had been promised at least five dollars a page, and that he intended to contribute a lyric as well. But his hopes were dashed, for only the "Ballad of the Stranger" appeared. Annoyed by the omission, Lowell protested to Hillard. The latter replied that he had sent back the second piece not because it was poor, but because he felt it "too peculiar to be popular, or something of the kind.… I know nothing of any contract between you and Mr. Williams. But I cannot suppose it possible that he promised to pay you five dollars a page and allowed you a carte blanche as to the number of pages, because you might occupy the whole volume in that case."15

In the same letter Hillard explained that on sending back the "too peculiar" lyric he had given Lowell an opportunity to submit something else in place of it. Whether Lowell did so is not definitely known, but it may be that an unsigned story called "The Lesson of a Moment" is his. The tale is based on the thesis that one’s own lot often seems unfortunate when compared to that of others, but "were all the houses of our friends unroofed by another Asmodeus, we should find that none of them was without its dark shadow." The hero is a young man of an old New England family, yet of humble station, who has achieved thru his own efforts "the best education which the institutions of our country afford." He had, moreover, won literary distinction and was in love with a girl named Mary. This description of a youth full of literary zeal, poor, and in love with his Mary is significant when it is remembered that Lowell himself, a few years out of Harvard College, poor, became engaged to Maria White shortly before this story was published. What is more striking is that Lowell had written to his friend Loring a few years before as follows:

"Among other plans that have been fermenting in my brain is one of writing a tale founded upon the idea of a man’s having the power given him of seeing into the minds of other men and women, as Asmodeus did into their houses."16

But were one willing to guess at authorship because of style or subject matter or as a result of inferences drawn from initialed signatures or pen-names, the list of "identified" pieces in the volumes of The Token would be long. Certain positive conclusions in this regard may be reached, however, without much strain upon the confidence or good nature of the reader:10

Frances E.I. Calderón de la Barca: 1833, "Visit of Poor Relations," "Joan of Arc"; 1834, "The Diamond," "The Castle," "The Return."18

Lydia M. Child: 1828, "Lines," "The Lone Indian," "The Recluse of the Lake," "Beauty," "The Adventures of a Rain Drop."19

W.G. Crosby: 1828, "To a Lady, with a Withered Leaf."20

Alexander H. Everett: 1831, "Lord Vapourcourt."21

Edward Everett: 1832, "My Wife’s Novel"; 1834, "The Modern Job."22

Samuel G. Goodrich: 1828, "The Hermitess," "The Twins,"23 "Farewell,"24 "To--," "Childhood," "To Ellen," "My Home and Thee"; 1830, "The Token," "On the Death of a Friend," "The Sleep Walker," "Meditation," "The Juniata," "Grandfather’s Hobby," "Lines [When God is heard]," "Greek Lovers"; 1832, "Will He Bite?" "To a Lady on Her Marriage," "The Blind Girl to Her Mother"; 1833, "Lines on Seeing a Soldier of the Revolution," "The Artist"; 1834, "The Tomb"; 1835, "The Dream of Youth," "The Silver Cascade," "The Wreck"; 1836, "Gratitude," "The Indian Weed Sprite," "The Hunters of the Prairie";25 1838, "Chingford Church"; 1840, "The Rainbow Bridge," "Guess My Name," "The Liar," "Life"; 1841, "Footprints," "Ireland and the Irish," "The Lover of Nature," "The Swiss Boy’s Farewell," "The Teaching of the Senses."

Hannah F. Gould: 1832, "The Frozen Dove," "The Dying Storm," "The Meteor"; 1833, "The Stormy Night"; 1836, "The Painter Boy"; 1837, "Father, Hear."26

21 The "Aqueduct Near Rome," in The Rose of Sharon 1840, is also in The Token 1837.

Sarah J. Hale: 1828, "A Bridal in the Early Settlements," "The Token [Look to the East]."27

13 For details see below, p. 49-50, 63-64, 67, 75-76, etc.

Anna Kane: 1829, "Confessions of a Bell."28

Sophia L. Little: 1828, "Thanksgiving."29

Henry W. Longfellow: 1832, "La Doncella," "The Indian Summer"; 1833, "An Evening in Autumn," "The Bald Eagle"; 1834, "The Convent of the Paular"; 1835, "The Youth of Mary Stuart."30

Isaac McLellan Jr.: 1828, "Musings," "The Swedish Miner."31

Grenville Mellen: 1828, "The Voice of the Soul," "Catskill."32

John Neilson Jr.: 1830, "Nulla Nisi Ardua Virtus."33

W.B.O. Peabody: 1828, To an Aged Elm."34

Henry Pickering: 1833, "Dirge of a Young Poetess."35

John Pierpont: 1828, "For a Lady’s Album."36

Robert C. Sands: 1830, "The Height of Impudence," "Infidelity"; 1833, "Good Night."37

Epes Sargent: 1833, "The Storm"; 1834, "The Storm at Night"; 1835, "The Days That Are Past"; 1837, "The Gift of Flowers," "To a Nameless One"; 1838, "Music on the Waters," "The Light Canoe," "To S.D.," "The Last of His Tribe."38

John O. Sargent: 1829, "The Grave of the Ocean Warrior"; 1830, "The Minstrel"; 1832, "Returning a Stolen Ring," "Philosophy," "Byron, at the Age of 19," "Ruins," "The Freshet"; 1833, "Philip of Mount Hope," "On a Noisy Politician," "My Native Land," "Song," "Song," "To a Lady"; 1834, "Wachuset," "My Lot," "To a Lady, with a Necklace," "To an April Flower"; 1835, "The Cottage Girl," "Consolation," "Lady Lake," "Sonnet," "To a Lady Who Called Me Capricious"; 1837, "A Song"; 1838, "A Dramatic Scene from Victor Hugo."39

Lydia H. Sigourney: 1828, "A Vision of the Alps," "Montpelier," "Connecticut River," "Flora’s Party," "Penitence," "To the Evening Star."40

William W. Story: 1842, "Upon the Death of a Country Clergyman."41

Sarah H. Whitman: 1838, "The Trailing Arbutus," "An Autumn Walk."42

Daniel W. Whiting: 1828, "Morning."43

N.P. Willis: 1828, "The Solitary," "The Hindoo Mother," "Waiting for the Harvesters," "The Soldier’s Widow," "*****"; 1831, "To a City Pigeon," "The Blind Mother."44

Leonard Woods: 1831, "Oriental Mysticism."45


The Token 1828 was published on November 28, 1827; 1829 on October 24, 1828; 1830 on October 24, 1829; 1831 on October 16, 1830; etc. (see the Boston Columbian Centinel for these dates).

2 See Goodrich’s autobiography, Recollections of a Lifetime, New York and Auburn, 1856.

3 MS. contract between Goodrich and Willis, dated December 4, 1827 (YU). This contract concerns also The Legendary (see below, p. 93).

4 See p. 32 of J.M. Johnson’s bibliographical appendix to Epes Sargent of Gloucester and His Descendants, Boston and New York, 1923.

5 Letter to G.B. Loring, quoted in H.E. Scudder, James Russell Lowell, Boston and New York, 1901, I, 93.

6 "When I consented to edit The Token, Mr. Williams put a number of pieces of prose and verse in my hand…" (MS. letter, Hillard to Lowell, July 14 [1841?] HCL).

7 See MS. letters to Longfellow from Charles H. Hartshorn and from Brinckmann – both dated July 19, 1841 – now in the Craigie House, Cambridge.

Bosen’s Picture of Boston, Boston, 1838, p. 44.

Recollections of a Lifetime, II, 263 n.

10 MS. letters, Goodrich to Durand, December 1827 (sic); December 10, 1828; February 19, 1829; March 19, 1829 (NYPL).

11 Henry Inman was commissioned to furnish at least one picture; see his MS. letter to G.C. Verplanck, February 15, 1835 (NYHS).

12 The Knickerbocker, II, 397 (November 1833).

13 It should be pointed out, however, that "The Adventurer," in The Token 1831, concerns a real person named John Dunn Hunter, with whom John Neal was acquainted and about whom he had written. There seems to be no reason for disregarding the hint concerning Neal’s authorship printed in the annual or for assuming that Hawthorne knew Hunter or would have written about his strange career had he known him.

14 Letters of James Russell Lowell, ed. By Charles Eliot Norton, New York, 1894, I, 62.

15 MS. letter dated July 14 [1841?] (HCL).

16 Letters of James Russell Lowell, ed. Norton, I, 49.

17 The table of contents of a copy of The Token 1828 now in BA is annotated in a contemporary hand. Some of the attributions are correct; others are wrong. Those not verified follow: Sarah J. Hale, "Dreams of the Fireside"; I. McLellan, "Napoleon"; Miss Sedgwick, "Some Passages in the Life of an Old Maid": N.P. Willis, "Abbotsford," "Putnam’s Cave"; O. Wyman, "The Shipwreck."

18 In Recollections of a Lifetime, II, 537, Goodrich lists Mme. Calderón de la Barca among those who contributed to The Token. The lady was the former Frances Erskine Inglis, who in 1838 married the Spanish Ambassador to the United States. These five stories, signed "F.E.I." or "F.I*****," are undoubtedly by her.

19 The first title is reprinted in The Poets and Poetry of America, ed. by Rufus W. Griswold, Philadelphia, 1842, p. 442; the second appears in part in The American Common-Place Book of Prose, ed. by G.B. Cheever, Boston, 1833, p. 457-8 – both under Mrs. Child’s name. The last three were collected by Mrs. Child in The Coronal, Boston, 1832. "The Adventures of a Rain Drop" has been attributed to Nathaniel Hawthorne.

20 Reprinted in Specimens of American Poetry, ed. by Samuel Kettell, Boston, 1829, III, 287, and there credited to Crosby.

21 Reprinted in Everett’s Critical and Miscellaneous Essays, second series, Boston, 1846.

22 These two stories have been attributed to Hawthorne, but according to Dr. William Everett, they were written by the latter’s father, Edward Everett. See a note by G.E. Woodberry in The Nation, LXXV, 283 (October 9, 1902).

23 These two stories are reprinted in Goodrich’s Sketches from a Student’s Window, Boston, 1841.

24 This and the following 23 pieces are collected in Goodrich’s The Outcast, Boston, 1836.

26 The first three titles are reprinted in Miss Gould’s Poems, Boston, 1832; the next two are in her New Poems, Boston, 1850; the last is in her Poems, Boston, 1841, III, 28.

27 "The Token" is reprinted under Mrs. Hale’s name in her Flora’s Interpreter, Boston, 1835, p. 42. The preceding tale is partially reprinted in Cheever’s American Common-Place Book of Prose, p. 453-4, and there credited to Mrs. Hale.

28 Since Willis’s editorial activities were not confined to The Token 1829, he was continually short of material, and in his letters to his friend J.B. Van Schaick of Albany (several dozen of which are now in HSPA) he rarely failed to beg for contributions. Van Schaick himself obliged, and at least one fair Albanian as well – Anna Kane by name – was persuaded to do so. See particularly Willis’s letter dated February 9 [1829?].

29 Reprinted under Mrs. Little’s name in Kettell’s Specimens of American Poetry, III, 162-7.

30 "An Evening in Autumn," "The Indian Summer," and "The Bald Eagle" are listed in the Longfellow bibliography in The Cambridge History of American Literature, II, 430. ("The Bald Eagle" has been attributed to Hawthorne.) The reasons for assigning the other three pieces are discussed in my article published in American Literature, III, 303-8 (November 1931). James T. Hatfield, in his New Light on Longfellow, Boston and New York, 1933, p. 26, remarks that the translation from Körner entitled "Good Night," signed "L.," in The Token 1835, "shows every evidence of being by Longfellow." The testimony of the signature and subject is, to be sure, persuasive. But it is not conclusive.

31 These two poems are reprinted in McLellan’s The Fall of the Indian, Boston, 1830.

32 The first of these pieces may be found in Mellen’s The Martyr’s Triumph, Boston, 1833. The second is reprinted in part under Mellen’s name in Cheever’s American Common-Place Book of Prose, p. 459-60.

33 Signed "N*****." May be found also in the MS. collection of Neilson’s verse now in NYHS.

34 Included in the MS. collection of Peabody’s verse: "Lines Written at Different Times, 1816-1827" (HCL).

35 Signed "Falkland." May be found also in Pickering’s MS. volume entitled "Poems by an American" (HCL).

36 Reprinted in Pierpont’s Airs of Palestine, Boston, 1840.

37 "Good Night" is reprinted under Sands’s name in Selections from the American Poets, ed. by William Cullen Bryant, New York, 1841. "The Height of Impudence," signed "James Isaacs," is said in The Knickerbocker, XXI, 274 (March 1843) to have been written by Sands. "Infidelity," signed "J.I*****," is presumably Sands’s.

38 Seven of the nine poems here listed are attributed to Epes Sargent in J.M. Johnson, op. cit., p. 32. She does not include "To a Nameless One," reprinted in Sargent’s The Light of the Lighthouse, New York, 1844, or ‘Music on the Waters," reprinted in his Songs of the Sea, Boston, 1847.

39 These poems, some unsigned, some signed "V.V. Ellis," "George Grey," "Lawrence Manners," "J.O.S.," "Charles Sherry," "H. Vane," or "Edward Vere," are attributed to J.O. Sargent in J.M. Johnson, op. cit., p. 45.

40 "A Vision of the Alps" is reprinted in Kettell’s Specimens of American Poetry, II, 215-19, and there credited to Mrs. Sigourney. "To the Evening Star" appears in Mrs. Sigourney’s Zinzendorff, New York, 1836; the other four are in her Poems, Philadelphia, 1834.

41 This translation from Uhland is printed in The Poets and Poetry of Europe, ed. by Henry W. Longfellow, New York, 1855, and there credited to Story. Story may have been responsible also for the translation from Stollberg entitled "The Mountain Stream," in The Token 1842, for the version credited to him in Longfellow’s anthology is somewhat similar to that in the annual.

42 Both these poems, the first of which is singed "Egeria," the second "Sarah R. Whitman," are reprinted in Mrs. Whitman’s Poems, Boston, 1879.

43 "Dan Whiting’s piece is ‘Morning,’ " wrote Willis to his friend G.J. Pumpelly (MS. letter dated "Friday midnight" [ca. December 1, 1827] YU). In an undated letter to Pumpelly now in CU Willis explained as follows: "Dan Whiting’s piece written for the Souvenir prize was sent me among a hundred others by Goodrich, with the word condemned written on the back – I had the liberty of reprieve, and so I wrote it almost entirely over, corrected the metre, left out bad lines, and approved it. So much for auld acquaintance sake. He will appear in fair type – though he will hardly know his own piece. He little knew I was to be half Editor when he ask’d me if he had better send it." "Dan Whiting" is no doubt Daniel W. Whiting, Yale 1823. For the prize contest held in connection with The Token 1828 see above, p. 21.

44 "The Solitary" is reprinted in Willis’s Fugitive Poetry, Boston, 1829. "*****" is plainly an early form of the story called "Niagara," in Willis’s Inklings of Adventure, London 1836, I, 51-74. The other three pieces published anonymously in The Token 1828 were collected in Willis’s Sketches, Boston, 1827. "To a City Pigeon" is reprinted in Poets of America, ed. by John Keese, Boston [c1841] II, 178-9, and there credited to Willis. "The Blind Mother" was collected by Willis in his Melanie, New York, 1837.

45 Signed "L.W." Appears in The American Common-Place Book of Poetry, ed. by G.B. Cheever, Boston [1831] p. 400-1, under Woods’s name.



Edward L. Carey, brother of Henry C. Carey of Carey & Lea, joined with Abraham Hart in 1829 to form the firm of Carey & Hart. Within a decade the partners had so prospered that they were, in the opinion of a contemporary, "the best-known and most popular publishers of belles-lettres books in America."1 No small share of their reputation was due to The Gift, one of the several literary annuals they sponsored and their most ambitious undertaking in the gift book field.

Miss Eliza Leslie edited the initial four volumes of the series, the first of which appeared late in 1835, dated, as was customary, for the following year. There were eight issues in all, with none for 1838 or 1841. Miss Leslie was a spinster who had distinguished herself largely by the publication of a cook book and various stories for children, but she was related by marriage to E.L. Carey, his brother Henry having married her sister Patty. Miss Leslie was paid as much as $350 annually for her work on The Gift.2 E.L. Carey himself seems to have edited the volume for 1842, and apparently he controlled the policies of the final three volumes as well, altho William H. Furness, pastor of the Philadelphia Unitarian Society, became gradually more and more involved – "as a labour of love," we are told – in an advisory capacity.3

The illustration in The Gift was probably the especial concern of Carey, himself a collector of paintings. Some of the engravings in the earlier volumes are unexceptional – a few, in fact, being but re-engravings of plates in British annuals – 4 but others are distinctly American, and, on the whole, the illustration in the series will stand comparison with that in other American gift books. If one would deplore the reproduction in the 1840 volume of F.P. Stephanoff’s "The Dying Greek," which has not even the saving grace of charm to mitigate its sentimentality, one must admire the vigor and effectiveness of J.B. Danforth’s engraving of Charles Robert Leslie’s "Don Quixote," which is a neighbor. Several plates after W.S. Mount’s limnings of American rural life are worth noting, and J.G. Chapman, Thomas Doughty, A.B. Durand, Daniel Huntingdon, Henry Inman, and Thomas Sully furnished other satisfactory subjects. One critic went so far as to say that The Gift might be regarded "as a dial by which to learn the progress of the arts in America."5

That the work of Sully was used more frequently than that of any other artist was no doubt due to Carey. Between 1833 and 1845 the publisher bought at least fourteen pictures from Sully, paying for each an average of more than $200.6 While this patronage may be attributed primarily to Carey’s ambitions as a collector, it seems probable that some of the artist’s work was commissioned especially for The Gift. At least one picture7 was ordered for a gift book, altho it is impossible to say whether it appeared in the particular annual now under discussion or in another of Carey & Hart’s publications. Certain of Sully’s works were probably reproduced without benefit to him, however, for several portraits with generalized titles prove to be pictures of persons who may themselves have lent the paintings to an engraver. "A Portrait," engraved by J.B. Forrest for The Gift 1840, was apparently done after Sully’s likeness of Mrs. Francis Hopkinson (née Ann Biddle).8 John Cheney’s plate "Beatrice," in The Gift 1836, is an engraving of Sully’s portrait of Fanny Kemble.9 Forrest’s "Brother and Sister," in The Gift 1839, reproduces Sully’s portrait of his own children, Alfred and Jane,10 and the title-page vignette in the same volume is Cheney’s rendering of the artist’s conception of another daughter, Blanche Sully.11

Others than Sully, however, sent their paintings to Carey & Hart. Henry Inman’s "Newsboy" was shipped to Philadelphia for engraving by Inman himself,12 and W.S. Mount wrote to the publishers that he was most eager for them to use his work – going even to the point of outlining its illustrative qualities. Did they not wish to buy his "Fortune Teller"? "It would open rich for the Gift – a good story can be writen for it," Mount explained in language as unaffected as his art; "I am pleased you intend having the Gift the tallest Annual in this Country."13

Of the engravers John Cheney was the favorite, for he signed 24 plates, more than a third of the total in the series. Other well-known craftsmen employed were R.W. Dodson, G.B. Ellis, A.W. Graham, Alexander Lawson, J.I. Pease, and W.E. Tucker. Carey & Hart’s records show that an average of $225 was paid for each of the engravings.

Nearly eighty persons were contributors to the letter press of The Gift, about one in five having had earlier experience with annuals via The Atlantic Souvenir, while a greater proportion had written or were writing for The Token. Charles West Thomson figures most prominently among the poets; his fecund but unimpressive talent, it will be recalled, had won him a numerically high place in The Atlantic Souvenir, as well. Others who supplied much verse were Hannah F. Gould, Mary E. Lee of Charleston, South Carolina, and the ubiquitous Mrs. Sigourney. Of the writers of prose, the outstanding is William Gilmore Simms, with his stories of Revolutionary days in the Carolinas or of contemporary Southern life. Following in bulk of contributions are Miss Leslie, with a half-dozen feeble tales: Edgar Allen Poe, represented by five stories; Catherine E. Beecher, William E. Burton, Mrs. E.C. Embury, Morgan Neville, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Frederick W. Thomas, N.P. Willis, and others.

Poe’s tales are among the finest work in the series. Perhaps it was in recognition of the quality of the "Manuscript Found in a Bottle" that Miss Leslie accepted it for The Gift 1836 despite the fact that, as the author confessed, it had been printed before.14 His four other stories – "Eleonora," "The Purloined Letter," "William Wilson," and "The Pit and the Pendulum" – seem to be first publications.

Worthy of especial mention also are Mrs. C.M. Kirkland’s narratives of life in Michigan. In the 1840’s many Easterners had friends and relatives living in the Middle West; hence such tales as "The Bee-Tree," "Half Length from Life," and "The Schoolmaster’s Progress" were likely to arouse much interest along the Atlantic seaboard. But there was yet another aspect of Mrs. Kirkland’s work, one which attracted the very people it portrayed. It could serve as salve for the stings left on the American epidermis as a result of Mrs. Trollope’s visit or by the more recent punishment of Dickens’s American Notes. As Poe later explained in one of his Literati essays, it was to Mrs. Kirkland and her genial tales that The Gift "was indebted for a most unusual sale among the conscious and pen-dreading denizens of the west."15 Another critic was moved to explain that these stories were worth "all the Dickens or Trollops [!] in the world.… For heaven’s sake, reader, if you wish to know what backwoods Americans really are, look up the truthful sketches of this lady, and throw those foreigners to the dogs."16

With the volume for 1844 The Gift was strengthened by a group of contributors from Boston and its environs – an addition no doubt due to the accession to editorial influence of W.H. Furness. Ralph Waldo Emerson was the most notable of these. Among the others were William Ellery Channing (the younger), C.P. Cranch, F.H. Hedge, H.W. Longfellow, J.R. Lowell, and H.T. Tuckerman.

Emerson had visited Furness in Philadelphia early in 1843, and apparently promised to send some of his own writings to The Gift in token of his good will. When a contribution from Concord finally arrived, however, it was accompanied by certain poems by William E. Channing and a letter from Emerson expressing the hope that his protégé might also find a place in the annual. Emerson further asked that payment for his own work and that of Channing be lumped together and sent to Channing with no explanatory remarks. Thus by a polite sort of coercion did the younger poet’s efforts appear in The Gift – and, as we shall see, in The Diadem. Furness did not like the strange rhymings of Emerson’s friend, and said as much. "Mr. Channing’s verses," he wrote to Emerson, "depend for admission into the Gift and for the consequent pay, upon an article, prose or poetry, from you."17

The authorship of two anonymous pieces in The Gift has been ascertained. "Leaves from the Journal of a Poor Vicar in Wiltshire," a translation from Zschokke published in the volume for 1844, is the work of W.H. Furness.18 "Leaves from the Diary of a Recluse," in The Gift 1845, was written by Anne C. Lynch.19


Early in 1844 W.H. Furness was asked to edit a new gift book for Carey & Hart, for that indefatigable firm was not content with The Gift alone. "I have undertaken to edit an Annual for Mr. C.," Furness wrote to Emerson, "but I wish to be very anonymous, so please don’t tell."20 Three issues of The Diadem appeared – for 1845, 1846, and 1847. The series must be classed with major American gift books, despite its great proportion of translated material.

Having drawn upon Emerson for The Gift, Furness wrote for further assistance. "I shall make it up with things old and new," he explained; "if any fine old things occur to you, let me know, do. I find in the matter of jokes that many of Joe Miller’s are new to this generation which knows not Joseph. It is the same, I take it, with poetry."21 But The Diadem apparently never printed any fine old things; the bulk of its prose and verse is previously unpublished translations from the German, and the non-translated material also seems to have been new. Perhaps Carey prevailed upon his editor to accept only those writings never before printed, for by 1845 booksellers’ tables were overrun with eclectic annuals, and it would have been unfortunate had the new series in any particular imitated these.

In the death of E.L. Carey, in June 1845, the fortunes of The Diadem suffered a fatal setback. The publisher had directed the illustration until the time of his death, as the 1846 preface makes clear, and very likely only because of his interest and generosity did the series last even three years. It was not one to engage wide public patronage. After Carey’s death there was put forth but one more issue.

Carey & Hart’s MS. records show that the Diadem editions numbered 2000 copies each and that the net cost for each issue approximated $2600. Of this sum the editor and contributors together received annually between $100 and $150, while the expense of the engravings ranged between $550 and $620. The bindings used were in keeping with the sobriety of the letterpress, and cost on an average but thirty cents per copy.

The engravings in The Diadem, all executed by John Sartain, are large and impressive but hardly distinguished works of art. The designs are principally ideal portraits or biblical scenes; only one has individuality – the likeness of Carey drawn by Sartain for the volume appearing shortly after the publisher’s death.22 Another noteworthy illustration is in the last issue, engraved after Sully’s well-known portrait entitled "Mother." Designs by American artists were not always used, altho Huntingdon, Inman, Leutze, and others are represented; in the series may be found seven by Edwin Landseer. The 1847 volume presented plates "After original paintings never before engraved," but most of these were admittedly borrowed from private collections, so that their reproduction probably did not directly benefit the artists. Leutze, however, was studying in Düsseldorf thru the good offices of Carey during the years in which The Diadem was published.23 Certain designs were drawn by him there and shipped to Philadelphia for engraving.24

The state of American letters may not be gauged by a reading of The Diadem, for the annual neither accepted contributions from a wide circle of writers nor printed more than a modicum of what may be called American literature. As mentioned earlier, over 85 per cent of its prose and verse consists of translations from the German. Furness had long been interested in German literature, as had others of the contributors: C.T. Brooks, Emerson, N.L. Frothingham, F.H. Hedge, and Miss L. Osgood. Of the nine identified contributors, only three did not appear as interpreters of German culture. One was Anne C. Lynch, author of the verses accompanying the illustrations in the first volume; such poetry, naturally, was original. The other two were Emerson and the younger Channing. Channing’s one poem was no doubt accepted on the same basis as that of his work in The Gift – as a concession to Emerson. Of the five pieces in The Diadem of uncertain authorship, two are labeled translations. Thus fully was this annual committed to a single purpose. The only piece of prose not a translation is an essay emphasizing the significance of intuition in the life of man – a doctrine with a German metaphysical tinge.25

Of the poetry, but a third is translated, the remainder being largely "made-to-order" verse by Miss Lynch. A feature of the last two volumes of the series is that they omit this sort of mechanized poetry, on the ground that it cannot hope to be of literary consequence.

Emerson’s contributions were sent, it seems, more or less out of friendship for Furness. "I will do something, so help me the Muses! for the Diadem," he wrote to the editor; two or three months later the Muses had helped, and Furness was sent some "little pieces, garnets for your ‘Diadem’…."26 These, "Loss and Gain," "A Fable," and "The Fore-runners," are today among Emerson’s best-known poems, and it was with a somewhat unconvincing modesty that he subsequently acknowledged their inclusion in the ornate red-and-gold-bound annual which Furness forwarded:

"Thanks, and very humble thanks too, for the fine book you send me, so rich & stately that my poor little verses look very few & short, – and I wish they had been better. Great is your art & skill."27

Emerson’s "The World-Soul," published in The Diadem 1847, was sent only after some deliberation. His volume of poetry was about to appear, and he did not wish to reduce his slender supply of verses. But Furness was able to convince his friend that the printing of the poem in The Diadem need not affect its future publication.28

Of the anonymous pieces in the series, "Julius," a story in three parts published in the third volume, is by the editor.29 "The Walpurgis-Night" and "The Bean," in the first and second issues, respectively, seem to have been translated by W.H. Furness Jr.30 "Memory," in The Diadem 1845, is by Anne C. Lynch.31 Those articles signed "L.O." are by Miss L. Osgood.32 "The Rose," in The Diadem 1846, signed "B.T.," was translated by "a fine girl of the Norwich Taylor stock," according to the editor.33 The various articles credited to "N.L.F." are by Nathaniel L. Frothingham.34


1 James C. Derby, Fifty Years among Authors, Books and Publishers, New York, 1884, p. 550.

2 For the costs of The Gift see above, p. 12.

3 In the introduction to his edition of the letters exchanged between William H. Furness and Ralph Waldo Emerson (Records of a Lifelong Friendship, Boston and New York, 1910) H.H. Furness writes as follows: "My father was a warm personal friend of Mr. [E.L.] Carey, by whom he was consulted on sundry matters of detail in the literary ‘make up’ of this edition of The Gift [The Gift 1843]. In the preparation of the edition for 1844, however, my father took a more active interest, and, in the subsequent issues, and when The Gift was merged in The Diadem, he became, wholly as a labour of love, the chief editor." H.H. Furness errs in writing of subsequent "issues" of The Gift, for there was but one more, that for 1845. Nor is it correct to speak of a merging of The Gift and The Diadem; the two series paralleled each other for one year and are quite distinct.

4 "Dorothea" and "The Sisters" in The Gift 1837 and "Rustic Civility" in The Gift 1839 are re-engravings of pictures used in the London Literary Souvenir 1835 and 1836.

Graham’s Magazine, XXI, 155 (September 1842).

6 This datum is based upon Sully’s own list of his paintings, published in Edward Biddle and Mantle Fielding, The Life and Works of Thomas Sully, Philadelphia, 1921.

7 "Unknown Woman," a portrait; see Biddle and Fielding, op, cit., p. 301.

8 See ibid., p. 177.

Homer F. Barnes, in his Charles Fenno Hoffman, New York, 1930, p. 231 n., says that Rufus W. Griswold edited The Gift. Hoffman wrote to Griswold in April 1843 that he would contribute to the annual the latter was then editing – The Gift, according to Mr. Barnes. There seems to be no reason, however, for believing that the annual in question was other than The Opal 1844.

9 See ibid., p. 196. This portrait of the famous actress is said to have been sketched by Sully on his thumb nail during one of her performances in Philadelphia – a feat made necessary by Miss Kemble’s refusing to sit for her likeness. See James C. Derby, op. cit., p. 553, and Biddle and Fielding, op. cit., p. 42.

10 See Biddle and Fielding, op. cit., p. 284.

11 See ibid., p. 284.

12 See MS. letter, Inman to Carey & Hart, August 10, 1841 (BPL).

13 MS. letter dated January 9, 1842 (HSPA).

14 In the Baltimore Saturday Visiter (see Poe’s letter to J.P. Kennedy quoted in George E. Woodberry, The Life of Edgar Allan Poe, Boston and New York, 1909, I, 139-40). Poe received $1 a page from Carey & Hart for this story (see Hervey Allen, Israfel, New York, 1827, I, 364).

15 The Complete Works of Edgar Allen Poe, ed. by James A. Harrison, New York [c1902] XV, 85.

16 Brother Jonathan, VI, 243 (October 28, 1843).

17 The information used in this paragraph is derived from Records of a Lifelong Friendship, especially Emerson’s letters dated March 11 and March 19, 1843, and those of Furness dated April 20, 1843, and February 15, 1844.

Emerson’s signed contributions to The Gift number three: "The Garden of Plants" in the volume for 1844, and "The Poet’s Apology" and "Dirge" in that for 1845. George Willis Cooke, in his Bibliography of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Boston and New York, 1908, lists these correctly, but mistakenly adds a fourth called "The Poet."

18 Reprinted in Prose Writers of Germany, ed. by Frederic H. Hedge, New York, 1856, p. 459-71, and there credited to Furness.

Furness signed "To Columbus Dying," in The Gift 1845, but in a letter to Emerson (Records of a Lifelong Friendship, p. 27) he explained that the piece was "concocted together" with Miss L. Osgood.

19 See The Female Prose Writers of America, ed. by John S. Hart, Philadelphia, 1857, p. 345.

20 Records of a Lifelong Friendship, p. 27.

21 Ibid., p. 27.

22 C & H MSS. show that $25 was paid for a design used in The Diadem 1846 – the only item of expense of this nature recorded. Perhaps the sum was payment for the Carey portrait.

23 "It was through his [Carey’s] influence and greatly through his means that Leutze was sent to study art in Düsseldorf" (H.H. Furness’s introduction to Records of a Lifelong Friendship, p. xiii).

24 See Leutze’s MS. letters to Abraham Hart, February 26 and August 15, 1846 (CU).

25 "Genius," in The Diadem 1846. Signed "F."

26 Records of a Lifelong Friendship. P. 35, 39.

27 Ibid., p. 44.

28 See ibid., p. 53-4.

29 Reprinted in W.H. Furness’s Julius, and Other Tales from the German, Philadelphia, 1856.

30 These tales, both signed "W.," are reprinted in Julius [etc.}, but in a letter to Emerson (Records of a Lifelong Friendship, p. 43) the editor of The Diadem says that "The Bean" was translated by his son, W.H. Furness Jr.

31 Reprinted in Miss Lynch’s Poems, New York, 1849.

32 See Prose Writers of Germany, ed. Hedge, p. 420 n.

33 Records of a Lifelong Friendship, p. 43.

34 "The Last Poet," in The Diadem 1846, and "To the Old Family Clock," in the succeeding volume, are reprinted in Frothingham’s Metrical Pieces, Boston, 1855.



The Liberty Bell, chief of American anti-slavery gift books, first appeared in Boston in 1839. By that time Abolitionism had become more than an issue for cranks, and many prominent people were willing to join in what seemed to be a righteous crusade against slave-holding. Yet the crusade could not be waged without a good deal of money; there were newspapers to publish, agents to pay, and a dozen and one other ways of using up available cash.

In 1834 a group of women including Maria Weston Chapman, wife of the wealthy merchant Henry Grafton Chapman, decided that an annual bazaar would serve to replenish the fast-emptied coffers, and thereafter, for more than twenty years, Boston saw during each Christmas season at least one anti-slavery fair. Competing fairs were occasionally held, for certain workers disagreed with the majority as to the best means of achieving the common end. But the bazaar organized by the Chapman-Garrison faction was the principal one in Boston, just as the Chapman-Garrison faction was the most influential the country over. Needlework, objets d’art, books, autographs, confections, house-furnishings – all sorts of items which might be sold at a profit were gathered in, either from friends, as free-will offerings, or from amiable merchants who would suffer the Abolitionists to buy their wares at wholesale. Sewing circles in rural New England worked all year to fill a box for the Fair; packing cases from British and Irish sympathizers were crammed with goods and shipped to Boston with a blessing. The result was that a considerable sum was added annually to the funds of the reformers, and polite Bostonians (or the more determined strata of polite Boston) were treated to a few days of mild excitement and a chance to buy Christmas presents as they unshackled the slave.

At the sixth of the fairs begun by Mrs. Chapman and her associates (that opening October 29, 1839) The Liberty Bell made its debut, and at the twenty-fourth (that beginning December 17, 1857) appeared the fifteenth and final issue.1 Only the first is marked with the year of publication; the others, according to the custom, are dated with the year "for" which they were intended. Altho it may appear otherwise, therefore, there is no break between the first two issues; that dated 1841 was published the year after that dated 1839.2 There were intervals in the series, however; no volume was prepared in 1849, "for" 1850, or in 1853, 1854, and 1856.

Maria Weston Chapman and her sisters Anne Warren Weston and Caroline Weston were largely responsible for both The Liberty Bell and the fairs at which it was published, so largely so that when in 1858 these ladies decided that there were more efficient ways of raising money, both the annual bazaar and the literary annual were abandoned – ended, as one associate put it,3 simply because Mrs. Chapman and her sisters would do no more for them. The idea of a literary adjunct to the Fairs had been Mrs. Chapman’s; her sister-in-law Ann Greene Chapman, who died in 1837, had begun to fill an album with literary contributions from friends of the anti-slavery cause, and from this collection were taken many articles for the first Bell.4 Mrs. Chapman, moreover, edited most of the numbers, altho no editor’s name appears on the title-pages. Anne Warren Weston assisted when necessary, taking full charge of the issue for 1856.6 But the majority of the labor fell upon Mrs. Chapman’s shoulders. She was capable and persistent, and evidently a good organizer. James Russell Lowell called her "the coiled-up mainspring of the Fair."7

It was no light undertaking to gather annually a sufficient number of unpublished essays, stories, and poems to fill a sizeable volume, and no doubt it was even more difficult to raise the money for paper, printing, and binding. But Mrs. Chapman succeeded time and again. In response to pleas for assistance, those interested sent in either their verbal reactions to slavery or ever-welcoming cash. The printed report of the Thirteenth National Anti-Slavery Bazaar shows that in 1846 over forty persons aided the publication with the sum of $221. Between October and December 1848 ten cash gifts averaging $12.50 each were acknowledged by Anne Warren Weston and credited to the Liberty Bell account. The printed report of the 1857 Bazaar shows that a total of $250 was subscribed for the final volume.

Each issue cost probably well over $250; in 1849 it was said that expenses ranged between $300 and $400 a year.8 But the sale of the book must have brought in at least a little money, and Caroline Weston afterwards stated that "no part of the expenses for printing and binding came from the Fair at any time."9 "The funds raised by this book are always paid into the Fair," it was said in 1843, "and it always doubles the money invested in it."10

Even though no complete record of Liberty Bell finances is available today, we may safely suspect the truth of the last statement. The public sale could not have been large, for the volumes were not intended to amuse, and their format was not sufficiently elaborate to be in itself an attraction. In all probability the annual lost money and was supported simply because it was an impressive means of propaganda and useful in keeping alive interest in the Fairs. No doubt a considerable part of each edition was given away to those who had contributed directly to its publication or had otherwise aided the Bazaar. In 1852, for instance, 75 copies were shipped to Dublin, probably for distribution among Irish friends and sympathizers.11

Compared to that of most other American gift books, the format of The Liberty Bell is strikingly modest. The sobriety was probably due not to reverence for simplicity as much as to scarcity of funds, even were there some regard for the impropriety of elaborate decoration in an anti-slavery annual. The printing is neat and the paper of good grade, and nearly every issue contains an engraving or two if not the ten or dozen which graced The Token and its peers. The first volume used a frontispiece symbolic of Truth setting free the slaves, the succeeding a view of Plymouth Rock. That for 1842 contains a prospect of Boston and an idealized likeness of John Pierpont. In subsequent issues are portraits of Charles Follen, William Lloyd Garrison,12 Francis Jackson, Lucretia Mott, and Wendell Phillips.

The last five volumes are illustrated with only an ornamental title-page, the gift of the artist, J.R. Foster.13 Each volume of the series contains a wood-engraved device of a ringing bell bearing the motto "Proclaim Liberty to ALL the Inhabitants." According to Caroline West, Ellis Gray Loring invented the phrase.14 The bindings differ. Some are of coated paper or of muslin, while others, in approved gift book style, are of tooled leather or of silk. The Bell for 1848 appeared at the Fair in four different garbs, one of white silk.15 Portions of the editions for 1846, 1847, and 1848 were printed on large paper.

Nearly 200 men and women were enrolled as literary contributors, among them Elizabeth Barrett Browning, William H. Channing, David L. and Lydia M. Child, James Freeman Clarke, Frederick Douglass, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Margaret Fuller, William Lloyd Garrison, T. Wentworth Higginson, Edmund Jackson, Caroline M. Kirkland, Henry W. Longfellow, James R. and Mary W. Lowell, Harriet Martineau, Lucretia Mott, Theodore Parker, Wendell Phillips, John Pierpont, Charles L. Remond, W.W. Story, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Bayard Taylor. Less than one-third of these were women. Some contributed poems, some essays, some stories. Some merely wrote letters which were duly published.

All kinds of writing were desirable, so long as the spirit was right. The Liberty Bell to Mrs. Chapman’s mind was not so much a repository of excellent pieces of prose and verse as a yearly testimonial to Abolitionist principles. Be brief, Mrs. Chapman advised one prospective contributor, because a large number of contributors was wanted despite the small pages and the widely-spaced lines of type.16 Anne Warren Weston remarked at another time that the annual was "an instrumentality by which the truth can be conveyed to classes among whom our periodical Anti-Slavery literature finds a very imperfect circulation."17 Both statements and the contents of the books themselves show that persuasiveness rather than literary quality was the editorial determinant.

In reading The Liberty Bell today one is likely to be impressed more by the internationalism of its letterpress than by anything else. Other American anti-slavery gift books were as unquestioningly loyal to the Abolitionist cause, but only one other – the Star of Emancipation – drew from as wide a range of contributors. Isolated, this fact means little, but when it is remembered that the average American literary annual was aggressively nationalistic, the fact becomes significant. The Liberty Bell, concerned with pointing out that all was not well in the United States, that certain matters were ordered better in other countries, could not help thwarting a patriotism which did nearly as much harm as good. Its critical attitude made for at least a temporary diminution of the scorn for all things foreign. Behind the emotional excesses of Abolitionist fervor lurked at least this one sobriety.

Foreign contributors, numbering nearly 75, were principally British and Irish: Bernard Barton, Sir John Bowring, Lady Byron, Thomas Clarkson, James Haughton, Mary and William Howitt, Richard M. Milnes, George Thompson, and others. But there were also Frenchmen, among them J.J. Ampère, H. Carnot, Ernest Legouvé, Charles Rémusat, Alexis de Tocqueville; also the Russian historian Nicholas Tourgueneff, and Fredrika Bremer, and the exiled Joseph Mazzini. As a token of catholicity sixteen articles were printed in French, as they came from their authors, and one in German. What is more, in complete disregard for what today is understood as patriotism, there appeared in the volume for 1847 the following sentiments by James Hurnard of England. The reference is to Andrew J. Stevenson, appointed American Minister to Great Britain in 1836 and recalled in 1841.

"Go back! Pale-faced ambassador,
To thy own land of slaves
Touch not our talismanic shore,
Plough not our free, blue waves.

Your "spangled banner" high may flash
Her famous "stripes and stars;"
The first denote the driver’s lash,
The second mean the scars."

To this it is a far cry from the jingoism of most American annuals and gift books. The superciliousness that would have at another time infuriated New Englanders was blessed by Boston publication.

Liberty Bell writers, like those in other anti-slavery gift books, did not admit the economic issues at stake in the North-South argument. Their comments were emotional and popular; slaveholding was presented as a matter of morality, not of dollars and cents. Altho some of the Abolitionists must have realized that ethical considerations were hardly primary, the arguments were confined to ethics in almost every instance. The sacred union of the States (never so sacred in New England as the casual modern American is likely to believe) was fiercely denounced because Southerners were evil persons, not because Southerners and their political allies held the balance of power in Washington. In the volume for 1851 Garrison anathematized Daniel Webster as "the great apostate" because he was a recreant and fallen man; Wendell Phillips and G.F. Talbot arrived at similar conclusions in the issue for 1853, followed by Mrs. Chapman in that for 1856. As early as 1844 a demand for secession rang from The Liberty Bell in such tones as these:

Down with the blood-streaked flag!
Trample that gore-writ Compact
With Slavery’s wrinkled hag!
We snap the bond which held us;
And to remotest time
Stand severed from the robber-land,
Where mercy is a crime!"

It was more fitting that if organized religion were to be criticised, the approach should be an ethical one. That such criticism found voice at all proves how whole-heartedly the Abolitionists supported their cause. But a long-standing tabu was broken when it became clear that certain religious bodies would not actively assist the anti-slavery movement. The scheme of the American Bible Society to distribute Bibles among slaves was denounced by Frederick Douglass in the Bell for 1848 as not only foolish but also dishonest, on the ground that a slave cannot be given anything, since what may be presented to him becomes his master's property. The volume for 1849 contains an article by C.K. Whipple in which the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions was taken to task for being tacitly pro-slave instead of actively anti-slave. And in other instances there are direct and indirect references to the Christianity which preached a doctrine of brotherly love and kindness while countenancing what seemed to be the opposite.

To what end the efforts of Liberty Bell writers? From a literary point of view the effect was not happy, and thruout the fifteen volumes there is hardly to be found one contribution of esthetic merit. Among all the poems, discussions, sketches, stories, and bulletins there are few memorable lines or paragraphs. From a practical point of view, as well, little could have been accomplished, for like all unadulterated reform literature, The Liberty Bell circulated among those people who already knew and accepted its tenets. The annual may have inspired to great zeal the Abolitionists themselves, but it could hardly have made many converts. Is not the secret of successful propaganda insinuation rather than declaration?

Whatever its weaknesses, however, The Liberty Bell is a notable record of a vital American stirring. In addition, the fact that it contains previously unpublished work by prominent writers renders it of considerable literary interest, at least bibliographically. Mrs. Chapman used original contributions whenever possible. Only in the final volume were there five pieces of her own (more than she had ever before included in a single issue) and a number of reprints: Anne Warren Weston’s "Sonnet," from the 1844 volume; Sarah Wentworth Morton’s "The African Chief," popular for over a generation; and selections from the works of George W. Doane and W.J. Fox.

The chief contributions to The Liberty Bell have been recorded by bibliographers, but a few additional notes may be of interest. E.B. Browning’s "The Runaway Slave at Pilgrim’s Point" appeared in the volume for 1848, her "A Curse for a Nation" in that for 1856. Both are published in Mrs. Browning’s collected works, but they merit mention here since they seem to be the only original contributions of a notable foreign writer to an American annual. Four of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s poems are listed individually by title in the bibliography by George Willis Cooke, but the fifth, "The Poet," has been omitted.18 James Russell Lowell is the author of eleven poems, all which are cited in the bibliography also by Mr. Cooke – one, however, incorrectly.19

John G. Whittier’s sentiments toward Mrs. Chapman and Garrisonian theories of activity were such that it is not strange that his name is not found as a contributor to the Bell. It is barely possible, however, that his work is among the anonymous or pseudonymous pieces. Of these there are not many – eighteen in all – for the very good reason that Mrs. Chapman wished contributors to sign their names. Of the four unsigned prose articles, three can be identified. "The London Convention," in the volume for 1841, is by Lady Byron.20 The "Sketch of ‘A Foreign Incendiary,’ " in the volume for 1842, is by Richard D. Webb of Dublin.21 "An English Child’s Notion," in the volume for 1847, is by Frances Armstrong of Bristol, England.22 Of the unacknowledged verse, "Voices from the Old World to the New," in The Liberty Bell 1847, is by Mary Carpenter of Bristol, England.23


1 The opening dates of the Fairs mark the publication dates of The Liberty Bell. Printed advertising handbills show that the Fairs ordinarily began during the week before Christmas – sometimes as early as December 17, sometimes as late as December 24. The reason that the 1839 Fair was held several months earlier is that a serious disagreement had divided the Abolitionists, and Mrs. Chapman’s group apparently sought to steal a march on their rivals. See MS. letters, Caroline Weston to Samuel May, October 21 and October 24, 1871. These and all other letters and pamphlets cited in this chapter are now in BPL.

2 "We always called the first Liberty Bell the ‘Bell’ of 1839 & 40" (MS. letter, Caroline Weston to Samuel May, October 24, 1871).

3 MS. letter, Samuel May Jr. to R.D. Webb, March 30, 1858. Later letters from May to Webb show that Mrs. Chapman was wise in her decision. In January 1859 a "festival" rather than a bazaar was held in Boston, and while it is not clear just what went on at this affair (the activity seems to have been confined to tea-drinking and speech-making), the gathering succeeded in raising more money than had any of the Fairs.

4 See MS. letter, Caroline Weston to Samuel May, October 24, 1871.

5 See MS. letter, Samuel May Jr. to R.D. Webb, July 24, 1855.

6 See MS. letter, Samuel May Jr. to Mary Carpenter, February 4, 1851.

The Writings of James Russell Lowell, Boston and New York , 1896, VII, 306.

8 MS. letter, Anne Warren Weston to Caroline Weston, March 6, 1849.

9 MS. letter to Samuel May, October 24, 1871.

10 Address of the Committee of the Tenth Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Fair (a printed pamphlet).

11 See MS. letter, Samuel May Jr. to R.D. Webb, March 2, 1852. Very likely the Liberty Bell editions were of less than 1000 copies each.

12 The matter of Garrison’s portrait, published in the Bell for 1846, is mildly amusing. On September 14, 1845, Mrs. Chapman wrote to Robert Purvis of Philadelphia asking if he would lend for engraving his portrait of Garrison. Purvis answered ten days later that the picture had been boxed and was about to be shipped to Boston. After four months had passed, on January 15, 1846, Mrs. Chapman replied, thanking Purvis for his loan and stating, apparently without embarrassment, that his picture had not been used and that instead a new portrait in profile had been painted and engraved. The news was probably no shock to Purvis, as the Bell for 1846 had been published nearly a month before Mrs. Chapman decided to write her letter.

13 See the Thirteenth National Anti-Slavery Bazaar printed newssheet, dated Boston, January 1847. This report implies that Foster’s plate appeared first in the Bell for 1847, but apparently 1848 was the first to use it.

14 MS. letter to Samuel May, October 24, 1871.

15 See MS. letter, G.W. Briggs to A.W. Weston, December 20, 1848.

16 MS. letter to the Rev. Samuel May, January 11, 1844.

17 Printed report of the Sixteenth Fair, called the National Anti-Slavery Bazaar Gazette and dated January 29, 1850.

18 A Bibliography of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Boston and New York, 1908. The poems, all in the Bell for 1851, are reprinted in Emerson’s Uncollected Writings, New York [c1912].

19 A Bibliography of James Russell Lowell, Boston and New York, 1906. "The Falconer" is in the Bell for 1846, not that for 1847. Some of the poems have not been reprinted or collected; see Luther S. Livingston, A Bibliography of the First Editions in Book Form of…Lowell, New York, 1914.

20 In Mrs. Chapman’s MS. report of the 1840 Bazaar it is stated that this article is by Lady Byron and that at her request it was printed without signature.

21 The MS. of this article is among the Weston papers.

22 See MS. letter, Frances Armstrong to the Rev. Samuel May, August 17, 1846.

23 See MS. letter, Samuel May Jr. to Mary Carpenter, December 5, 1846. "The Trump of Jubilee," in the Bell for 1841, is by the Boy Bard of Connecticut (whoever he may have been), according to Mrs. Chapman’s MS. report of the 1840 Bazaar.



1. The Memorial

The first gift book of consequence published in Boston was The Memorial. This appeared twice, for 1827 and for 1828, under the editorship of Frederic Stanhope Hill, a young Bostonian who later won some reputation as an actor and playwright. The writing is not particularly impressive, much of it being sheer melodrama or a mixture of pathos, love of nature, and moral bombast. But on the score of priority The Memorial has a certain claim to fame, and among the contributors were a few well-known writers. Its career ended as its reputation was assuming some proportions. Perhaps the advent of The Token as a rival hastened its demise.

The Memorial plates are small and come from such engravers as E. Gallaudet, D.C. Johnston, and Thomas Kelly. Some of the designs in the second issue may have been especially commissioned, but the majority obviously were not. The second volume contains lithographs by John Pendleton as well as the more common engravings on steel.

Articles in The Memorial 1827 are signed with initials or pseudonyms only, while those in 1828 are altogether unsigned. But since the preface to the latter lists persons who submitted "voluntary contributions, not offered for prizes," besides mentioning the prize winners, so far as their names were known, some identifications have been possible.1 These are as follows:

Elizabeth Bogart: 1828, "The Effect of a Single Folly."2

William G. Crosby: 1828, "To My Ladye-Love."3

Rufus Dawes: 1828, "Anne Bullen."4

John Everett: 1828, "Saint Paul’s Church."5

Sumner L. Fairfield: 1827, "Night," "The Courtezan"; 1828, "The Lozel."6

Henry J. Finn: 1928, "The Tribute of Truth"; 1828, "The Funeral at Sea."7

Sarah J. Hale: 1827, "The Gifts," "The Jewels of Isabella," "The Muse’s Hour," "The Light of Home"; 1828, "The Mother to Her Child."8

25 This and the following ten pieces are reprinted in Goodrich’s Sketches from a Student’s Window.

Frederic S. Hill: 1827, "Douglas."9

James A. Hillhouse: 1828, "An Apologue."10

Isaac McLellan: 1827, "The Forest Rivulet," "The Spaniard’s Lament," "A Day on the Ocean," "The Swiss Wanderer’s Return," "William Wallace," "Charlotte Corday," "Rest to the Dead," "My Dog’s Grave," "Fergus McIvor"; 1828, "The Angler’s Song."11

James W. Miller: 1828, "The Epicurean at the Feast of Isis."12

Joseph H. Nichols: 1828, "A New England Village."13

James G. Percival: 1827, "A Voice Is Heard," "Ye Come to Me," "O! Sing to Me"; 1828, "Sonnet [O would that dreams]," "Canzonet," "Canzonet."14

Lydia H. Sigourney: 1827, "Lines on Hearing a Lady Perform Sacred Music."15

Katherine A. Ware: 1828, "Greece."16

Anna Maria Wells: 1827, "Sonnet."17

John W. Whitman: 1827, "The Binnacle."18

N.P. Willis: 1827, "To--," "Hagar in the Wilderness"; 1828, "Serenade."19

These identifications leave the authorship of many pieces still unrecognized. Oliver Wendell Holmes may have been a contributor, for in March 1828 he confessed to a friend that he had "written poetry for an Annual" and had seen his "literary bantlings swathed in green silk and reposed in the drawing-room."20 The Memorial 1828 appeared in green silk binding,21 but perhaps other gift books of the time were similarly bound. A re-examination of the list of "voluntary" contributors included in the preface of the second issue shows as-yet-unidentified work by the following: Caleb Cushing, J.A. Jones, George Lunt, Mrs. Morton (Sarah Wentworth Morton?), Joseph H. Nichols, Mrs. L.H. Sigourney, B.B. Thatcher, and O.C. Wyman Jr.

2. The Legendary

While the second volume of The Token was in preparation, Samuel G. Goodrich decided upon another publication, The Legendary. This appeared twice within one year, so it is not an annual – nor, strictly speaking, a gift book, since it was published without illustrations and in the plainest sort of binding. But because The Legendary contains stories and poems like those in the leading annuals, it is logically discussed here. It was to be issued not at the holiday season each year, but, as the prospectus in the first volume states, "once in three or four months as may be convenient."

When N.P. Willis contracted to edit The Token 1829 he agreed to oversee also The Legendary.22 What fee he received for this task is not known, altho shortly before accepting the post he wrote to his friend J.B. Van Schaick that he meant to charge Goodrich "two or three cool hundred."23 Only two volumes of the work were issued – the first late in May 1828; the second in December of that year –24 and the whole was later termed by Goodrich "a miserable failure. The time had not come for such a publication."2 It would seem not to have come yet.

Much as he sought material for The Token, Willis urged his friends to contribute to The Legendary, and they in turn solicited theirs. Charles Fenno Hoffman, for instance, wrote to Van Schaick that he would be glad to submit some of his work to the new periodical, as Van Schaick had suggested, were he not afraid that his writings would be recognized.26 Goodrich’s aim was to make his publication "principally illustrative of American history, scenery and manners," a high purpose which apparently brought indifferent results, for in the preface to the second issue it was explained that the material submitted need not necessarily relate to America, though such was preferable. Among the contributors secured outside the charmed circle of Willis’s intimate acquaintances were Lydia M. Child, Sarah J. Hale, Fitz-Greene Halleck, John Pierpont, Miss Sedgwick, and Mrs. Sigourney.

Of the anonymous pieces a few may be identified. "Romance," in the second volume, is by Mary E. Brooks.27 "Sachem’s Hill," in the first volume, is by Eliza Lee Follen.28 "A Legend of Bethel Rock," in the same issue, is by S.G. Goodrich.29 Silas P. Holbrook wrote "The Schoolmaster," in the second volume,30 and Willis himself was the author of "The Table of Emerald," in the preceding issue.31

3. The Western Souvenir

"Well done for the backwoods!" exclaimed a New York reviewer32 of The Western Souvenir – and it was in this charitable spirit that the press received the first of American gift books from beyond the Alleghenies. Edited by James Hall, literary and legal light, and issued in Cincinnati late in 1828,33 The Western Souvenir was offered as a collection of "domestic literature" by residents of the recently settled territories along the Ohio, and as evidence that the Atlantic seaboard had no monopoly upon the arts of the writer and the painter. The letterpress is concerned principally with the life and history of the Middle West, and the pictures – all made in the United States and most of them done expressly for the book – show forth local scenery, including views of the growing towns of Pittsburgh and Cincinnati. A.J. Hervieu and Samuel M. Lee of Cincinnati were among the artists represented, and the engravings were executed by C.G. Childs, Joseph Cone, and William Woodruff.

Upon receiving early in 1828 an announcement of the plan of The Western Souvenir, an Eastern critic confessed that he would welcome the forthcoming book as one "eliciting the talent of our backwoods literati," who would be able to draw upon the "inexhaustible store" of Western legend and tradition.34 Unfortunately, the backwoods literati had but a single chance to show their talent; Hall’s gift book did not make a second appearance. Yet the one opportunity must have been welcome, for the writing is for the most part alive with the excitement and color of frontier life. A rival gift book issued in Detroit two years later, The Souvenir of the Lakes, is relatively immature and unsatisfactory.

The chief contributor to the Cincinnati volume was the editor, who signed fifteen pieces with his name, seven others with the pseudonym "Orlando,"35 and inserted at least one of his own without signature.36 Among the other contributors were S.S. Boyd, Otway Curry, John B. Dillon, Micah P. Flint, Timothy Flint, Harvey D. Little, and Morgan Neville.37

4. The Offering

One of the most sober and respectable of American gift books is The Offering for 1829, published in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in the "very atmosphere of learning," as one critic explained.38 The foreword announced that the collection was an offering to the cause of infant education and that the proceeds of its sale would be devoted to that benevolent object. Just what is meant by this is not clear. At about the time that The Offering appeared, however, a ladies’ fair had been held in Boston with the express purpose of raising money for educating poor children, and there may have been some connection between the book and the bazaar.39 There is no evidence to show that The Offering was sold at the fair or that it was especially prepared for it, as were the volumes of The Liberty Bell for the anti-slavery bazaars some years later.

The editor of The Offering was no doubt Andrews Norton, then professor in the Harvard Divinity School, for editorial notes in the volume are signed "A.N." and most of them concern Felicia Hemans, with whom Norton was acquainted. The illustration is lithographic, and consists of four plates signed by John Pentleton.

The letterpress is similar to that of the typical American gift book except for a few translations from the German of Goethe, Richter, Salis, and Schiller. Perhaps the most readable piece is an unsigned sketch called "A Wedding in Olden Times," both humorous and skilful. Of the majority, however, as The North American Review’s critic observed, "it would be difficult to answer ‘what they proved.’ " Were it not for Ralph Waldo Emerson’s association with the volume, its place would of necessity be less prominent.

In 1828 Emerson had finished his formal education, but he had yet to become a full-fledged minister of the Gospel or to publish any of his writings. It is in the pages of The Offering that he seems to have first appeared as a writer – a modest beginning, for his contributions are unsigned. But we now know that he is represented by at least two pieces: a poem entitled "Fame" and a prose tale called "An Extract from Unpublished Travels in the East." A second poem, "William Rufus and the Jew," may also be his.40

Of the other contributors a few can be identified. Felicia Hemans is represented by four poems. Two of these, "On My Mother’s Birthday" and "Pity," were admittedly reprints; "To My Flowers" and "The Sculptured Children" seem to have been presented as previously unpublished specimens of her admired art. The latter, however, had appeared in an English annual published some months before The Offering appeared.41 "Hymn for an Infant School," by Bishop Bloomfield of London, was, according to the editor’s note, a first printing.

The unsigned "To a Lady Playing on the Piano Forte" is by Lydia M. Child.42 "Winter Scenes in the Country," also unsigned, was written by Mrs. Eliza L. Follen.43 "Former Days," signed "F.W.P.G.," is patently by F.W.P. Greenwood. "The Present State of Kenilworth and Warwick Castles," signed "A.N.," is no doubt the work of Andrews Norton. The anonymous "On, On! For Ever and Aye!" is by Louisa Jane Park, later Mrs. L.J.P. Hall.44 Ephraim Peabody wrote "The Skater’s Song."45 "The Hermits of Cordova," an unsigned tale, is by George Ticknor.46

The remaining articles in The Offering can not now be definitely assigned, but there is important evidence in regard to their origin. At least two extant copies of the book contain manuscript notations of authorship. One, with the name of Anna L. Quincy on the fly-leaf, is in the Harvard College Library; the other, with no owner’s name, is in the library of the New York Historical Society. The attributions in these copies are at variance only insofar as one or the other fails to indicate authorship; in no case is an article assigned to one person in one of the copies, to another in the second. That all the attributions in these handwritten lists are correct is made probable by the fact that it has been possible to confirm those cited in the preceding paragraph. The great handicap is that complete names were not always set down.

"L. Apthorp" is credited with "Prayer" and "The Lost Heart"; "Barlow" with "Longing," "Come Forth," "The Brook," and "Hymn to the Stars."47 "Bulfinch" is said to have written "Death," "A Tale of the Pyrenees," "A Vision," "Introductory Verses," and "A Castle in the Air."48 A tale called "Charles Herbert" is attributed to Mrs. E.L. Follen. "Fox" is listed as the author of "A Wedding in Olden Times."49 "The Fair Unknown," "Stanzas [O! let my eyes declare the flame]," "To Harriet," "The Walk under the Linden-Trees," "On the Death of a Young Poet," "Stanzas [When the night is softly stealing]" and "The Grave" are credited to "Hedge" – probably Frederic H. Hedge. The author of "Lines Written in an Album" and "The Contrast" is listed as "Miss Park" – no doubt Louisa Jane Park.

Ephraim Peabody, author of "The Skater’s Song," may be the Peabody credited with "A Legend of St. Anthony’s Falls," "Conversation Around the Work-Table," "Household Anecdotes of the Revolution," "Alpine Life," "Sonnet," "Glimpses," and "The Snow Storm." "Putnam" is marked as the author of "A Retrospect" and "New Year." "Miss Rotch" appears to have been responsible for "To Disappointment." The "Letter from Spain" is credited to "Mr. [?] Storrow"; "Sunset" to "H. Tudor."

Four pieces in The Offering are not assigned in either of the annotated copies. These are: "Examples of the Use of the Word ‘Barb,’ " "Burial of a Maiden at Sea," "A Reverie and a Reality," and "The Lover’s Return." The last is printed over the signature "R.L."

5. The Magnolia

The first important annual issued in New York City after The Talisman was The Magnolia, edited by Henry William Herbert and published for the years 1836 and 1837. The editor, better known as Frank Forester, writer on sports, had but a few years before left his native England to take up residence in this country, but he had become quickly acclimated, and, in conformity with the gift book convention, made his annual a product of American talent, enlarging the meaning of the term so as to include mere residents of the United States as well as natives. The literary and pictorial material in both volumes was presented as entirely original, and apparently in most cases it was that.

The illustration in The Magnolia 1837 was overseen by Henry Inman, the painter, as explained in the volume itself. Even in the earlier issue a correct taste had been in control. Many of the plates in both volumes are of American scenery, and their total effect pleases both the eye and the patriotic sense. J.W. Casilear, J.G. Chapman, Thomas Cole, A.B. Durand, Alvan Fisher, Charles C. Ingham, Inman, and R.W. Weir are among the artists represented. According to the preface to the second volume, some of their work was expressly prepared. The engravers employed include Casilear, John Cheney,50 Durand, J.A. Rolph, and James Smillie.

The letterpress needs little comment. Much of the poetry was the work of the editor, and none is remarkable. The prose is devoted largely to American history and American contemporary life. Among the contributors were Park Benjamin, Mrs. E.F. Ellet, Charles Fenno Hoffman, Washington Irving, Alexander Slidell Mackenzie, J.K. Paulding, Miss Sedgwick, and W.G. Simms. Cooper and Willis were said to have been contributors,51 but, so far as can be ascertained, were not.

The authorship of the following anonymous or pseudonymous pieces has been determined: Mrs. Ellet: 1836, "Green’s Pond."52 H.W. Herbert: 1836, "The Magnolia," "Virginia," "Innocenza," "The Rescue"; 1837, "The Fisher-Boy," "Sunset on the Hudson," "The Magnolia," "Oberon," "The Freshet," "To ***."53 William Leggett: 1837, "For Music."54 Thomas Ward: 1837, "Extract from ‘Passaic.’ "55

6. The Opal

The chief of the later annuals published in New York City was The Opal, which made six consecutive appearances, the first in 1843, the last in 1848. The initial volume, that for 1844, was begun under the editorship of Rufus W. Griswold, but "through misunderstanding with the publisher," as Graham’s put it,56 Griswold abandoned the work as it neared completion, and N.P. Willis finished the task. It is Willis’s name that appears on the title-page. Sarah J. Hale edited the volumes for 1845, 1848, and 1849, while those for 1846 and 1847 were prepared under the eye of John Keese, well-known New York bookseller.

The avowed aim of The Opal was to furnish suitable reading matter and illustrations for "the religious and moral classes of society," but on the whole the series does not differ greatly from others which did not thus state their purpose. Some of the stories, essays, and poems are extremely pious in tone, and a considerable proportion of the contributors could attach clerical titles to their names. Yet there are pieces clearly secular in nature, and one may be sure that some contributors had no other motives than to earn a little money and to see their effusions in print.

John G. Chapman furnished the designs for the plates in the first four volumes; who engraved them is not known, as no engraver’s signature appears. The Opal 1848 and 1849 are decorated with engravings by John Sartain or A.H. Ritchie after original designs by P.F. Rothermel.

Well over 100 men and women supplied the letterpress. First so far as bulk is concerned were Elizabeth Oakes Smith, Mrs. S.J. Hale, Anne C. Lynch, Hannah F. Gould, and Mrs. E.C. Embury. Among the others are J.M. Legaré, C.G. Leland, H.W. Longfellow, G.P. Morris, J.K. Paulding, Edgar Allan Poe, T.B. Read, H.R. Schoolcraft, W.G. Simms, Bayard Taylor, H.T. Tuckerman, Richard Grant White, J.G. Whittier, and R.H. Wilde.

Poe’s pieces, "Morning on the Wissahicon" and "A Chapter of Suggestions," in The Opal 1844 and 1845, respectively, are apparently first printings. For the latter article Poe was willing to accept fifty cents a page – 57 no great sum for a work which, altho by no means unified or explicit, is certainly of higher quality than most of its neighbors. The other material in the series also seems to be original.

The authorship of one unsigned poem in The Opal has been determined: "The Sabbath of the Year," in the issue for 1844, is by Caroline May.58


1 For details of the prize contest see above, p. 21.

2 The authorship of this prize-winning story is given in the preface.

3 Reprinted over Crosby’s name in Beauties of the Souvenirs for 1828, selected by J.W. Miller, Boston, 1828. Crosby probably wrote also the poems signed "W.G.C." in The Memorial 1827: "To the Autumn Leaf" and "The Dying Year."

4 Reprinted in Specimens of American Poetry, ed. by Samuel Kettell, Boston, 1829, III, 218, and there credited to Dawes.

5 The preface to The Memorial 1828 reveals this authorship.

6 "Night" is included in Fairfield’s The Heir of the World, Philadelphia, 1829; the other two are in his Poetical Works, Philadelphia, 1842.

7 These two poems are reprinted in Kettell’s Specimens of American Poetry, III, 290-1, and there credited to Finn.

8 The unsigned "Mother to Her Child" appears under Mrs. Hale’s name in Kettell’s Specimens, II, 302. Of the preceding four (signed "Cornelia" in the annual) the first and last are also quoted in Kettell, II, 300-1, and credited to Mrs. Hale.

9 No doubt by Hill, since it is signed "F.S.H."

10 Reprinted and credited to Hillhouse in Kettell’s Specimens, II , 363-5.

11 The nine poems in 1827 are probably by McLellan, since they are signed "I.M." "The Angler’s Song" appears in The American Common-place Book of Poetry, ed. by G.B. Cheever, Boston [c1831] p. 372-3, under McLellan’s name.

12 Included in Miller’s Poems and Sketches, Boston, 1830.

13 This poem, which won second prize in The Memorial 1828 contest, is credited to Nichols in the preface.

14 These six poems are reprinted in Percival’s Dream of a Day, New Haven, 1843.

15 Collected by Mrs. Sigourney in her Pocahontas, New York, 1841. An annotated copy of The Memorial 1827 now in BPL attributes to Mrs. Sigourney "Winter" and "On the Axe with Which Anna Boleyn Was Beheaded," as well as the "Lines." The same copy identifies "H.M.," author of "The Ruin," as Henry McLellan.

16 Reprinted in Kettell’s Specimens, II, 291-3, and there credited to Mrs. Ware.

17 Included in Mrs. Wells’s Poems and Juvenile Sketches, Boston, 1830.

18 This story, signed "Ichabod," has been attributed to J.G. Whittier. Convincing evidence for its being Whitman’s is given in Albert Mordell, Quaker Militant, John Greenleaf Whittier, Boston and New York, 1933, p. 18 n.

19 "Serenade" is reprinted in Beauties of the Souvenirs for 1828 and credited to Willis. The two other poems are signed "Roy"; the second is reprinted under Willis’s name in The Poets and Poetry of America, ed. by Rufus W. Griswold, Philadelphia, 1842, p. 284-5.

20 John T. Morse Jr., Life and Letters of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Boston and New York [c1896] I, 55.

21 See the notice in The Bower of Taste, I, 61 (January 26, 1828).

22 See above, p. 65 n.

23 MS. letter dated "Friday midnight" (ca. December 1, 1827) (YU).

24 The first volume was deposited with the District Clerk on May 15, 1828; the second on November 26, 1828. On May 24, 1828, Willis wrote to G.J. Pumpelly that "the Legendary…is published tomorrow" (MS. letter, CU).

25 Samuel G. Goodrich, Recollections of a Lifetime, New York and Auburn, 1856, II, 258.

26 MS. letter dated September 16, 1828 (HSPA).

27 Reprinted under Mrs. Brooks’s name in Kettell’s Specimens, III, 347-50.

28 Reprinted in The Boston Book (1841) and there credited to Mrs. Follen.

29 This tale is reprinted in Goodrich’s Sketches from a Student’s Window, Boston, 1841. It has been erroneously connected with the name of Charles Fenno Hoffman; see Homer F. Barnes, Charles Fenno Hoffman, New York, 1930, p. 199 n.

30 This tale, signed "P.," was collected by Holbrook in his Sketches, by a Traveller, Boston, 1830.

31 Appears in Willis’s Fugitive Poetry, Boston, 1829.

32 The Critic, I, 164 (January 10, 1829).

33 The volume had been "just issued," said The Ariel, II, 134 (December 13, 1828).

34 The Ariel, II, 12 (May 17, 1828).

35 "Orlando" is apparently Hall, for "Can Years of Suffering," thus signed in the gift book, is attributed to Hall in The Poets and Poetry of the West, ed. by William T. Coggeshall, Columbus, 1860, p. 73.

36 "Repeat the Strain," unsigned in the Souvenir, had appeared over Orlando’s signature in The Port Folio, XIII, 348-9 (April 1822). Hall’s "The Bachelors’ Elysium" was published in the gift book as a reprint from The Port Folio.

37 Neville wrote "The Last of the Boatmen," signed "N.," according to Ralph L. Rusk, The Literature of the Middle Western Frontier, New York, 1925, I, 275.

38 The North American Review, XXVIII, 488 (April 1829).

39 Comments on the ladies’ fair, held December 23-24, 1828, may be found in the Boston Recorder and Religious Telegraph for December 4 and December 25, 1828, and January 1, 1829. The Offering was on sale in bookstores by January 1, 1829; see James Loring’s advertisement in the Recorder for that date. Since the preface states that printing was not begun until late in November 1828, it is assumed that the publication date lay between December 15 and December 31, 1828.

40 For a discussion of these three pieces see my article in American Literature, VI, 151-7 (May 1934).

41 The Forget Me Not, London, 1829 – which contains "The Sculptured Children" – was on sale in the United States as early as November 6, 1828 (see the Philadelphia National Gazette and Literary Register for that date).

42 Appears in Mrs. Child’s The Coronal, Boston, 1832.

43 Reprinted in Mrs. Follen’s Poems, Boston, 1839.

44 Appears in Mrs. Hall’s The Cross and Anchor, Providence, 1844.

45 This poem, unsigned in the gift book, appears under Peabody’s name in The Bowdoin Poets, ed. by Edward P. Weston, Brunswick, 1840.

46 The substance of this story may be found in Life, Letters, and Journals of George Ticknor, Boston and New York, 1909, I, 225-6.

47 These authors may be Leonard Apthorp and David H. Barlow; both contributed to J.T. Buckingham’s New-England Galaxy, a magazine published in Boston coevally with The Offering (see Buckingham’s Personal Memoirs, Boston, 1852, I, 73 ff).

48 In The Radical, IX, 52 (August 1871) it is said that S.G. Bulfinch contributed to The Offering. None of the five pieces cited above, however, was collected in S.G. Bulfinch’s Poems, Charleston, 1834, or in his Lays of the Gospel, Boston, 1845. The Quincy copy of the gift book attributes "A Castle in the Air" to "T. Bulfinch," which may indicate Thomas Bulfinch, author of The Age of Fable."

49 The note in The Radical lists J.B. Fox as an Offering contributor.

50 In the Life and Writings of Frank Forester (Henry William Herbert), ed. by David W. Judd, New York, 1882, I, 70, it is remarked that Cheney’s frontispiece to The Magnolia 1837 is a likeness of Henry Inman’s daughter, with whom Herbert was in love.

51 See ibid., I, 25.

52 Included in Mrs. Ellet’s Poems, Translated and Original, Philadelphia, 1835. Hence the first publication may not have been in the annual. The exact date of appearance of the Poems has not bee determined.

53 These ten poems were collected in Poems of "Frank Forester," ed. by Morgan Herbert, New York, 1888.

54 Reprinted in Selections from the American Poets, ed. by William Cullen Bryant, New York, 1841, p. 99-100, and there credited to Leggett. A different version had appeared as "Melody" in Leggett’s Critic, I, 44 (November 15, 1828).

55 Signed "Flaccus." May be found in Ward’s Passaic…with Other Musings, New York, 1842.

56 Graham’s Magazine, XXIV, 48 (January 1844). A notice in Graham’s for April 1843 (XXII, 263), announced that Griswold was to edit a new annual called "The Christian Offering," and at about the same time Griswold wrote to the Rev. George Bush (MS. letter dated April 17, 1843; HSPA) asking for contributions to "The Religious Offering for 1844." It seems certain, however, that these titles are but temporary names for what was finally called The Opal 1844.

57 See Poe’s letter to Mrs. Hale quoted in Ruth E. Finley, The Lady of Godey’s, Philadelphia and London, 1931, p. 240.

58 Reprinted under Miss May’s name in E.A. and G.L. Duyckinck, Cyclopaedia of American Literature, New York, 1855, II, 689.



The terms "literary annual" and "gift book" are so vague that a check list might not unreasonably include any publication sold to the holiday trade – in other words, a majority of the American books issued between 1825 and 1865. But this interpretation would mean classification according to function rather than character. It has seemed best to list only those volumes which were the peculiar product of the period, and to exclude others, regardless of their typical titles, bindings, or illustrations.

Compilations like Griswold’s Poets and Poetry of America, anthologies on the order of Beauties of British Poetry, primer-like volumes for children, magazines bound in gift-book style, and those publications containing the work of one author only have been omitted. With few exceptions the volumes cited are miscellanies of prose and verse wholly or in part original, or their reissues.

This catalog, therefore, does not embrace several hundred items which found their way into earlier bibliographies.1 It does include more than 100 hitherto overlooked. The total number of volumes cited is 855. Of these, 465 are listed alphabetically; the remainder, later editions or reissues, are entered under their original title.2 Many of the duplicates noted have heretofore been regard as originals.

Each volume is located in at least one library by means of symbols explained in the following section headed "NOTE" with the exception of those labeled "FAX." These have not been seen by the compiler, and their description has been taken from Mr. Faxon’s bibliography.

When several publishers are listed in an imprint, only the principal is given. The general method of reproducing the title-page data is that of the American Library Association’s Catalog Rules (1908).


1 See Bulletin of the Public Library of the City of Boston, XII, 157 ff. (1893); Bulletin of the New York Public Library, VI, 271 ff. (1902); Frederick W. Faxon, Literary Annuals and Gift Books, Boston, 1912; The Cambridge History of American Literature, New York [c1918] II, 516-18; Clarissa L. Goold, Literary Annuals and Gift Books (unpublished master’s essay, Columbia University, 1928); Amy A Thompson, An Examination of the Gift-Books and Annuals in the Harris Collection of Brown University (unpublished master’s essay, Brown University, 1931).

2 "Edition" is here used to mean a book republished under the same (or essentially the same) title as that of its first issue, but with a differing imprint. "Reissue" applies to a book republished under a title different from that of its first issue. Neither term refers to successive numbers of a series, but only to republications. Editions and reissues often vary from their originals in illustration, and not infrequently the contents are altered by the omission or addition of one or more articles, or by a change in order and pagination.



The Forget Me Not 1823 is generally called the first British gift book. There were earlier poetic annuals, such as Robert Southey’s The Annual Anthology (1799, 1800), or The Poetical Register and Repository of Fugitive Poetry (1801-1811). Angelica’s Ladies Library, or Parents and Guardians Present (1794) was, as the title shows, intended as a gift. But with The Forget Me Not 1823 the fashion in Great Britain began. At least sixteen British gift books were issued for 1829, sixty-two for 1831, and not until 1846 did the annual number fall below fifteen. See the bibliography of British gift books in Frederick W. Faxon, Literary Annuals and Gift Books, Boston, 1912. An essay on The Forget Me Not, by C.T. Tallent-Bateman, may be found in Papers of the Manchester Literary Club, 1902, p. 78-98. Numerous whimsical and more or less unreliable surveys of the field have been published in magazines. Chapters IX and X of Thomas R. Lounsbury’s The Life and Times of Tennyson, New Haven, 1915, cover the subject in a general way.

As for France, some critics and bibliographers distinguish between French literary almanacs of the eighteenth century and the French "keepsakes" of the nineteenth century. The distinction is at best vague. For details, see John Grand-Carteret, Les almanachs Français, Paris, 1896; B.-H. Gausseron, Les keepsakes et les annuaires illustrés de l’époque romantique, Paris, 1896; Frédéric Lachèvre, Bibliographie sommaire des keepsakes et autres receuils collectifs…1823-1848, Paris, 1929. Lachèvre has made a special study of the earliest French literary almanac: Bibliographie sommaire de l’Almanach des muses (1865-1833), Paris, 1928.

For Germany, see Reallexikon der Deutschen Literaturgeschichte, ed. by Paul Merker and Wolfgang Stammler, Berlin, 1826-1828, II, 424-31; Hans Köhring, Bibliographie der Almanache, Kalender und Taschenbücher…1750-1860, Hamburg, 1929; R. Pissin, Almanache der Romantik, Berlin-Zehlendorf, 1910; Hans Grantzow, Geschichte des Göttinger und des Vossischen Musenalmanachs, Berlin, 1909; and Wolfgang Seyffert, Schiller Musenalmanache, Berlin, 1913. A recent specialized study is Arthur Goldschmidt’s Goethe im Almanach, Leipzig, 1932. A list of European annuals, particularly the Viennese, is AlmanacheKalenderTaschenbücherAnthologien, Wien, V.A. Heck [19--?].

Canadian annuals include The Christian Remembrancer for 1832, Montreal [n.d.] (LC); The Canadian Forget Me Not for 1837, ed. by John Simpson, Niagara [n.d.] (BU); The Maple-Leaf, or Canadian Annual, Toronto [n.d., issued for 1847, 1848, 1849] (NYHS).

Among Latin-American gift books are Aguinaldo Puerto-Riqueño, Colleccion de producciones originales en prosa y verso, Puerto-Rico, 1843 (LC), and Aguinaldo Matanzero, ed. by Jose Victoriano Betancourt and Miguel T. Tolon, Matanzas, 1847 (BPL). See above, p. 103, for El Aguinaldo 1829 and 1830, published in Philadelphia.



The following scheme of notation is used in the text to distinguish among volumes of the same title: The Token 1828 is that issue of the series published in 1827, "for" 1828. When for one reason or another a volume is identified by its imprint date or its copyright date, the form is this: The Fountain (1847), The Amaranth (c1831). The imprint date will ordinarily be disregarded, since in some cases it indicated the year of publication, in others the year "for" which the book was issued.

The symbols indicating the location of printed or MS. material are:

AAS – American Antiquarian Society
BA – Boston Athenaeum
BPL – Boston Public Library
BU – Brown University Library
C & H MSS. – Carey & Hart MS. records, now in the Historical Society of Pennsylvania
CU – Columbia University Library
DC – Dartmouth College Library
FLPH – Free Library of Philadelphia
HCL – Harvard College Library
HSPA – Historical Society of Pennsylvania
LC – Library of Congress
NYHS – New York Historical Society
NYPL – New York Public Library
NYSTL – New York State Library
PML – Philadelphia Mercantile Library
UMICH – University of Michigan Library
UNCAR – University of North Carolina Library
UPA – University of Pennsylvania Library
UWIS – University of Wisconsin Library
YU – Yale University Library