When my church cleared out its library a while back, I found myself in a large hall that I quickly renamed “Book Lover Heaven.” With a history of almost 80 years, the church’s members had contributed books which had publish dates that spanned a century. I scooped up as many as I could.
And there were plenty of gorgeous editions like these. Aren’t they lovely?
I haven’t looked for any information about the book covers of this era (late 1800’s), but I imagine that, since they were the main source of entertainment, books were also seen as items with which to beautify the home. Most homes set aside a room or area for the family “library,” and reading a book was a regular and coveted activity. A beautiful book cover enhanced the experience, much like a floral porcelain cup would add to a pleasurable afternoon tea.
Along with beauty on the outside, I found that most of these old books usually included another type of beauty on the inside: the handwritten inscription.
In His Steps (Charles Sheldon) – Ellen Thompson, From Florence, Dec. 25, 1900
Black Beauty (Anna Sewell) – To Ralph, From Papa and Mama, April 18, 1897
Pilgrim’s Progress (John Bunyan) – To Jacob (illegible), From Mr. and Mrs. (illegible), June 23, 1900
Try to imagine Ellen, Ralph, and Jacob receiving these books. Were the books brand new or were they passed on from a friend or family member? Did they appreciate the covers or was the look simply the norm of the day? What was happening in their lives, and how did they feel about a new century headed their way? How did they feel about the people who wrote the inscriptions?
My favorite is Ellen’s. She received her book on the first Christmas of the new century.
To see more antique book covers, visit this Pinterest board with its hundreds of pins.
Do you have any books like these in your library?