Are you still looking for ideas for Christmas gifts? Maybe we can help? In 1858, Irish bookseller and stationer Thomas Smith Harvey published a catalogue of books suitable for Christmas, New Year, and birthday presents.
The catalogue is divided into ten sections.
Poetry covers four pages, ranging in price from 1s to 31s 6d. As well as works from famous poets such as Longfellow, Shakespeare, Byron, Scott and Milton, there are books entitled Language and Poetry of Flowers; Moore’s Irish Melodies; Elegant Arts for Ladies; and Book of German Songs.
Religious books – as well as bibles, Harvey was offering Buchanan’s Christian Researches in India; Quarles’ Judgment and Mercy; Bogatsky’s Golden Treasury; and Morals from the Churchyard. This last one intrigued me and I discovered its full title is Morals from the Churchyard; in a series of cheerful fables. Here is the contents page and I am surprised that it was possible to create ‘cheerful fables’ from some of the graves listed here.
The next category is books for the country – natural history etc. It includes British Rural Sports; Cassell’s Natural History of the Feathered Tribes; Anecdotes of Animal Life; A World of Wonders Revealed by the Microscope; Mechi’s How to Farm Profitably; Rarey on Horse Training; and Walker’s Manly Exercises.
There is a section devoted to biography, history, travels, and science. Titles here include Kansas, or Squatter Life and Border Warfare; The Bridle Roads of Spain; Gavazzi’s Last Four Popes; Things Not Generally Known; How A Penny Became A Thousand Pounds; Overland Route to India; and Mornings at the British Museum. The book Unprotected Females in Norway perplexed me until I found the title continues: or, the pleasantest way of travelling there, passing through Denmark and Sweden, with Scandinavian sketches from nature.
Emily Lowe, Unprotected Females in Norway; or, the pleasantest way of travelling there, passing through Denmark and Sweden, with Scandinavian sketches from nature (London, 1857)
Here is one of the sketches drawn by the author Emily Lowe showing a Norwegian wedding taking place near Bergen.
Perhaps surprisingly there is only one page for fiction although Harvey does state that he can provide a large assortment of cheap works. His selection included Slick’s Nature and Human Nature; Marie Louise, or the Opposite Neighbours; and Never Too Late to Mend.
Eight pages are devoted to books for young people – three and a half for boys, four for children, and just half a page for girls. The boys’ section is full of sport, exploration, travel, adventure, and inspirational works: Sporting in Both Hemispheres; Wild Sports in the Far West; Boyhood of Great Men; The Story of the Peasant Boy Philosopher. For children, Harvey promises a great variety of cheap books for the very young and lists a selection of moral tales and story books such as Stories for Village Lads; Memoirs of a Doll; Norah and her Kerry Cow, as well as Learning to Converse. The girls’ books include Fanny the Little Milliner; Extraordinary Women; and Amy Carlton, or First Days at School.
A number of almanacs and diaries are offered as well as miscellaneous articles – gutta percha skates; ‘boys’ telescopes’; pocket compasses; microscopes; mathematical instruments; and small magic lanterns with slides.
When you have finished buying and wrapping your presents, have fun searching in our catalogue Explore the British Library for books listed in Harvey’s catalogue. Many have been digitised and can be enjoyed online.
Lead Curator, East India Company Records
Thomas Smith Harvey, Catalogue of books suitable for Christmas, New Year, or birthday presents (Waterford, 1858)