christmas book, queen victoria, english history
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VICTORIANA - Enjoy articles relating to the Victorian Era. A regular column in each issue of The Tea House Times. Written by Patrice LePera - Authority, Victorian Era, Historical Writing -

January 2013 Posts


Blog Entry

The Christmas Book

posted by TeaHouseTimes Admin, ADMINTuesday, January 8th 2013 @ 3:44 PM

It savours almost of profanity to speak of fashion in connection with literature, but undoubtedly it is to the ebb and flow in taste, on the part of our literary, artistic, and fashionable circles, that we must attribute many of the changes which have taken place in the character and style of what is known as Christmas literature. Books for special seasons have long been in vogue. At various times attempts have been made to establish an Easter season for special books, but they have always ended in failure.

On the other hand, Christmas books are still a growing institution, and one always welcomed by old and young.

In tracing fashions in Christmas books one finds it difficult to decide with any certainty how any particular style or development has come about. The explanation frequently lies in the energy, the forethought, and the enterprise of some publisher, who, watching the public taste, has, with an originality born of genius, produced something that fascinates the literary and artistic temperament of readers. Or it may be that some artist or engraver has been anxious to see his work issued in a style original and unique. Or a verse-maker may have wished his rhymes placed in an artistic setting. This was largely the case with the old Annuals. But perhaps the main key to fashions in Christmas literature is that the public has appreciated some particular kind of book or style of production, and has thus established a fashion which gets copied and recopied until some other caprice takes hold of the public taste.

There were issued for the Christmas season several important monographs in the English Historical Series; works of great literary merit and artistic beauty, the most popular being those on Mary Stuart by Sir John Skelton, on Queen Elizabeth by the late Bishop Creighton, and on Queen Victoria by Sir Richard Holmes. These works were all illustrated with pictures selected from various historical galleries; features which formed not only a gallery of illustrations of great painters, but an interpretation of the times during which the different sovereigns reigned. These were essentially Christmas books, as were also an important series of lives of painters issued towards the close of the nineteenth century. With these artistic volumes there has also come the perfecting of the process in printing known as the three-colour process.

The publisher, or author, who can originate some new way of producing that which is old but worth preserving, or who can give us what is entirely original either in form or illustration, will always find a public to whom he can appeal with confidence and success.


Excerpt from: The fascination of books, with other papers on books [and] bookselling (1912) by Joseph Shaylor


From the Nov/Dec 2012 issue of The Tea House Times.  To view the most recent issue, please register / log-in at

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