Rare Book Monthly

Articles - December - 2016 Issue

Some Collectible Holiday Gift Books

B2a279e1-c453-432b-8436-899c06c47859

An illustration by the Petershams for the 1st edition of THE CHRIST CHILD published in 1931, one of many collectible holiday books.

Most historians say the creation of a book specially written to be given as a holiday gift started with Charles Dickens. When A Christmas Carol first appeared in 1843 it started a trend of holiday publishing that has continued to the present day. The tale of Scrooge and his visits with the ghost his old partner Jacob Marley and the spirits of Christmas Past, Present and Yet-To-Come came out in a first printing estimated at 6,000 copies. All sources note the care Dickens took with the publication of this volume including selecting the end papers (green) and insisting on hand coloring for the plates. Though these details raised the costs and cut into his profits, it resulted in a beautiful gift book which was an instant best seller. There’s a short interesting video that tells a lot about Dickens and his “invention” of Christmas. Watch it at www.youtube.com/watch?v=MpMoGmlr0Gc&t=427s. Encouraged by the success of A Christmas Carol, Dickens went on to write other holiday offerings. Most of them can be found in digital format including text and illustrations at charlesdickenspage.com/christmas_books.html.



Despite the enduring popularity of A Christmas Carol, recent prices realized at auction for this title have been substantial but not spectacular. RBH records show sales ranging from GBP 1,612 to $7,500. The highest price paid within the last few years was $30,750 in 2014 for a lot containing all the Dickens' Christmas books including a signed copy of A Christmas Carol.



A search for early editions of the title brought up 90 listings priced from a high of $35,000 for a signed first edition to a low of $1,450 for a later 1845 printing. There are many points for the the true first. Besides the green end papers they include four color plates by Leech and four black and white illustrations by Linton, 'Stave I' on page 1. There are many facsimile first editions most of them priced under $100.



An equally enduring part of Christmas reading is the classic poem The Night Before Christmas (A Visit from St. Nicholas) by Clement Moore. It was first published anonymously in the Troy Sentinel in December 1823. The first publication attributed to Moore was in 1837 and in 1844 it was included in a published collection of his poetry. There are countless later editions and many fine illustrated versions. Some of the best known artists who have tried their hand at this holiday favorite are Arthur Rackham, W.W. Denslow, Jessie Wilcox Smith, Tasha Tudor, Robert Sabuda and others. The edition bringing the best price at auction in recent years seems to be Rackham’s published in 1931, especially the signed and numbered copies.



The Night Before Christmas introduced the “right jolly old elf” who eventually became Santa Claus. It was the images created by artist Thomas Nast and published in Harper’s Weekly that have most defined our vision of the man in the red suit who comes in a sleigh bearing gifts. According to the cartoon archives of Ohio State University, “Thomas Nast ‘invented’ the image popularly recognized as Santa Claus. He first drew Santa Claus for the 1862 Christmas season Harper’s Weekly cover and centerfold illustration to memorialize the family sacrifices of the Union during the early and, for the north, darkest days of the Civil War… The modern American celebration of Christmas, with its commercialized gift exchanges, developed in cities, led by New York, after 1880. Nast’s images of Santa Claus were so popular that they were collected and reprinted in a book published in 1890.” cartoons.osu.edu/digital_albums/thomasnast/santa_camp.htm



The RBH records on Nast images of Santa are scanty with only 11 entries. In 2012 a 1874 Harper’s Weekly Santa cover realized $166. A 2007 auction record shows “Santa Claus in Camp” published in Harper’s Weekly Jan. 1863 brought $1,080.  A better selection of antique Nast Santa items, both offered and sold, can be found on eBay where prices are spotty ranging from under $10 for a single piece to over $400 for an 1880 bound volume of Harper’s Weekly containing a full year with multiple Nast items.



When it comes to the spiritual side of Christmas there are too many versions of Nativity to itemize. This writer’s favorite one is The Christ Child from the Gospels according to Matthew and Luke, illustrated by Maud and Miska Petersham and published by Doubleday, Doran & Co. in 1931. A search for first editions brought up 13 copies priced from $20 to $275.



A more secular Christmas favorite arrived in 1939 in the form of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer by Robert L. May. “The most famous reindeer of all” was introduced as a giveaway booklet published by Montgomery Ward. A RBH 2009 auction record describes a first edition of which sold for $510, as “Illustrated in color by Denver Gillen. 10¼x7½" original color illustrated wrappers. First Edition, First Issue …. The name of Rudolph for the shiny-nosed hero of the poem was chosen by May's daughter. The book was distributed as a keepsake to the children of the company's customers. Several years later Johnny Marks (May’s brother-in-law) wrote lyrics based on the poem, and Gene Autry recorded the song, which was to become the second best-selling record of all time.”



Readers, especially young readers, are probably most familiar with Rudolph as a Little Golden Book which first appeared in 1958 illustrated by Richard Scarry. In 2013 the original front cover art for Rudolph by Scarry sold at auction for $8,125 according to RBH records.



Later in the 20th century several popular Christmas stories had their first appearances in magazines. Both A Child’s Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas and How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss appeared in periodicals prior to their publication as books. The Dylan Thomas piece came out in the U.S. in the Dec. 1950 issue of Harper’s Bazaar where it was titled "A Child's Memories of a Christmas in Wales.” In 1952 it was released as a record, followed by a US hardcover edition published by New Directions in 1954. There are other later editions; notably illustrated by Fritz Eichenberg (New Direction 1969) and Edward Ardizzone (UK 1st Dent 1978). Unless signed or inscribed prices for these titles are still fairly modest.



The Grinch first appeared in the December 1957 issue of Redbook and was also published as a book at approximately the same time by Random House. RBH records show a 2014 auction where a first edition of the Grinch with no dust jacket sold for $264. Recent sales on eBay of purported first editions with dust jackets ranged from $89 to over $400.



One of the most popular holiday children’s titles appearing in the late 20th century was The Polar Express, written and illustrated by Chris Van Allsburg and published in 1985 by Houghton Mifflin. The title went on to win a Caldecott Medal in 1986. RBH records show a signed copy of the first edition selling for $1,920 in 2006. The Polar Express became a 2004 movie starring Tom Hanks. There is also a book in a limited edition of 175 copies published in connection with the movie signed by Van Allsburg, Hanks and producer director Robert Zemeckis. A copy recently sold for $1,000 on eBay.



As the 21st century arrived the holiday themed pop-up books of Robert Sabuda became perennial mass market stand outs. These marvels of paper engineering come in multiple sizes and shapes, including miniature and oversized. There are numerous titles such as: A Christmas Alphabet, Twelve Days of Christmas, Night Before Christmas, Winter’s Tale, Retelling the Christmas Story and others. The Sabuda Christmas books began appearing in the mid-1990s and continue to the present day. Prices vary depending on condition and rarity, but all seem to still be widely available and not, as yet, expensive. A Google search brings up a number of YouTube videos illustrating the movable charms of these books that continue the holiday gift book tradition.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Francis Scott Key, <i>Star Spangled Banner,</i> first printing, c. 1814-16. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> William Sydney Porter, a.k.a. “O. Henry,” archive of drawings made to illustrate a lost mining memoir, c. 1883-84. $30,000 to $40,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> [Bay Psalm Book], printed for Hezekiah Usher of Boston, Cambridge, c. 1648-65. $50,000 to $75,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Book of Mormon, first edition, Palmyra, 1830. $40,000 to $60,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> <i>Noticia estraordinario,</i> probable first announcement in Mexico City of the fall of the Alamo, 1836. $40,000 to $60,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Patrick Gass, first edition of earliest first-hand account of the Lewis and Clarke expedition, Pittsburgh, 1807. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Diploma from the Princeton Class of 1783, commencement attended by Washington & Continental Congress. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> <i>Sprague Light Cavalry!</i> color-printed broadside, NY, 1863. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> <i>The Lincoln & Johnson Union Campaign Songster,</i> Philadelphia, 1864. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Lucy Parsons, labor organizer, albumen cabinet card, New York, 1886. $800 to $1,200.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Daniel L.F. Swift, journal as third mate on a Pacific Whaling voyage, 1848-1850. $3,000 to $4,0000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Two photos of Thomas Moran, Grand Canyon, silver prints, 1901. $1,500 to $2,500.
  • <b>Morton Subastas, Feb 25:</b> Nebel, Carl. The War Between the United States and Mexico. New York, 1851. $270,000 - $300,000 MXN / USD $15,000 - $16,666
    <b>Morton Subastas, Feb 25:</b> Nebel, Carl. The War Between the United States and Mexico. New York, 1851. $270,000 - $300,000 MXN / USD $15,000 - $16,666
    <b>Morton Subastas, Feb 25:</b> Bolaños, Joaquín. La Portentosa Vida de la Muerte... (“The Portentous Life of Death”) México, 1792. $50,000 - $60,000 MXN / USD $2,777 - $3,333
    <b>Morton Subastas, Feb 25:</b> Tratado de Paz… entre la República Mexicana y los Estados Unidos. (“Treaty of Peace… Between the Mexican Republic and the United States”) 1848. $80,000 - $90,000 MXN / USD $4,444 - $5,000
    <b>Morton Subastas, Feb 25:</b> Fabregat, Josep Joaquín. Vista de la Plaza de México… (“View of the Square of Mexico”) México, 1797. $60,000 - $100,000 MXN / USD $3,333 - $5,555
    <b>Morton Subastas, Feb 25:</b> Hidalgo y Costilla, Miguel. Invitación al Coronel Narciso de la Canal… (“Invitation to Coronel Narciso de la Canal…”) 1810. $170,000 - $200,000 MXN / USD $9,444 - $11,111
    <b>Morton Subastas, Feb 25:</b> Gálvez, Joseph de. Real Cédula de Erección de la Compañía de Filipinas. (“Royal Notice of the Creation of the Company of the Philippines”) 1785. $40,000 - $60,000 MXN / USD $2,222 - $3,333
    <b>Morton Subastas, Feb 25:</b> Colección de Constituciones de los Estados Unidos Mexicanos (“Collection of Constitutions of the United Mexican States”) México, 1828. $50,000 - $60,000 MXN / USD $2,777 - $3,333
    <b>Morton Subastas, Feb 25:</b> Ruelas, Julio. Poemario Manuscrito Ilustrado, Dedicado a Lorencita Braniff (“Collection of Illustrated Poem Manuscripts, Dedicated to Lorencita Braniff”). 1903. $60,000 - $70,000 MXN / USD $3,333 - $3,888
    <b>Morton Subastas, Feb 25:</b> Espinosa de los Monteros, Juan J. Aviso de la Junta Soberana al Público (“Notice of the Sovereign Meeting to the Public”) 1821. $60,000 - $80,000 MXN / USD $3,333 - $4,444
    <b>Morton Subastas, Feb 25:</b> Constitución Federal de los Estados Unidos Mexicanos... (“Federal Constitution of the United Mexican States”) México, 1824. $140,000 - $150,000 MXN / USD $7,777 - $8,333
    <b>Morton Subastas, Feb 25:</b> Alcaraz, Ramón. Apuntes para la Historia de la Guerra entre México y los EU (“Notes on the History of the War between Mexico and the United States”). 1848. $40,000 - $50,000 MXN / USD $2,222 - $2,777
  • <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Helvelius. Two Autograph Letters Signed to Francis Aston, Royal Society Secretary, noting his feud with Robert Hooke, 5 pp total, 1685. $70,000 to $100,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Newton, Isaac. Autograph manuscript on God, 4 pp, c.1710, "In the beginning was the Word...."?$100,000 to $150,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. First edition, first issue. Untrimmed copy in contemporary boards. $30,000 to $50,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Lincoln, Abraham. Signed photograph, beardless portrait with Civil War provenance. $80,000 to $120,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> IMPEACHMENT. Original engrossed copy of the first Andrew Johnson impeachment resolution vote. $120,000 to $180,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Mucha, Alphonse. 11 original pencil drawings for?<i>Andelicek z Baroku,</i> "Litte Baroque Angel," Prague, 1929. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Einstein, Albert. Annotated Galley Proofs for <i>The Meaning of Relativity.</i> 1921. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Silverstein, Shel. Original maquette for <i>The Giving Tree,</i> 34 original drawings. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Roth, Philip. Typed Manuscript with substantial autograph corrections for an unpublished sequel to <i>The Breast.</i> $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Taupin, Bernie. Autograph Manuscript, the original draft of lyrics for Elton John's "Candle in the Wind," 2 pp, 1973. $100,000 to $150,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> HARVEY, WILLIAM. <i>De Motu Cordis et Sanguinis in Animalibus Anatomica Exercitatio.</i> Padua: 1643. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> CESALPINO, ANDREA. <i>Peripateticarum Quaestionum Libri Quinque.</i> Venice: 1571. $30,000 to $40,000.
  • <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Leon TOLSTOÏ. <i>Anna Karenina.</i> Moscou, 1878. First and full edition of the Russian novel, in the author’s language.<br>Est. 3 000 / 4 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Mark TWAIN. <i>Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Tom Sawyer's comrade).</i> New York, 1885. First American edition.<br>Est. 5 000 / 6 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Walt WHITMAN. <i>Leaves of Grass.</i> Brooklyn, New York, 1856. Second edition gathering 32 poems. Est. 3 000 / 4 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Karen BLIXEN. <i>Out of Africa.</i> Londres, 1937. First edition in the UK, before Danish translation and American release.<br>Est. 1 500 / 2 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Ernest HEMINGWAY. <i>A Farewell to Arms.</i> New York, 1929. First edition with $2.50 on the dust and A on the copyright page.<br>Est. 2 000 / 3 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> James JOYCE. <i>Ulysses.</i> Paris, Shakespeare and Company, 1922. First edition published by Sylvia Beach. Est. 3 000 / 4 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> James JOYCE. <i>Dubliners.</i> Londres, 1914. First edition. Nice copy in publisher’s cardboard. Est. 2 000 / 3 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Franz KAFKA. 8 novels in German first edition, published in München, Leipzig and Berlin 1916-1931. Est. from 300 / 400 to 2 000 / 3 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> David Herbert LAWRENCE. <i>Lady Chatterley's Lover.</i> Florence, 1928. Privately printed first edition. Est. 4 000 / 5 000 €
    John STEINBECK. <i>The Grapes of Wrath.</i> New York, 1939. First edition. Nice copy with $2.75 on the cover. Est. 1 000 / 1 200 €
  • <center><b>University Archives<br>Autographs, Books & Relics Including Kerouac Estate<br>& Hemingway<br>February 26, 2020</b>
    <b>University Archives, Feb. 26:</b> Ernest Hemingway's Typewriter Used to Write "A Moveable Feast", Impeccable Provenance From His Biographer A. E. Hotchner. $50,000 to $100,000.
    <b>University Archives, Feb. 26:</b> Samuel Colt, "The Gun that Won the West": 3 Signed Patent Items for "Revolving Cylinder Guns". $40,000 to $50,000.
    <b>University Archives, Feb. 26:</b> Jack Kerouac's Own Typewriter From His Estate Used to Write His Very Last Book. $18,000 to $20,000.
    <center><b>University Archives<br>Autographs, Books & Relics Including Kerouac Estate<br>& Hemingway<br>February 26, 2020</b>
    <b>University Archives, Feb. 26:</b> Rare Force Engraving of the Declaration of Independence Printed in 1848. $15,000 to $18,000.
    <b>University Archives, Feb. 26:</b> Superb Tchaikovsky ALS to Napravnik, 4pp on "Mazeppa". $12,000 to $15,000.
    <b>University Archives, Feb. 26:</b> Wounded Knee Massacre Same Day Eyewitness Account by Participant, "the 7th needn't be ashamed of today's record". $10,000 to $12,000.
    <center><b>University Archives<br>Autographs, Books & Relics Including Kerouac Estate<br>& Hemingway<br>February 26, 2020</b>
    <b>University Archives, Feb. 26:</b> F. Scott Fitzgerald Signed Gordon Bryant Portrait -- Finest Known. $8,000 to $9,000.
    <b>University Archives, Feb. 26:</b> Neil Armstrong ALS on NASA Letterhead Regarding His X-15 Flights. $7,000 to $8,000.
    <b>University Archives, Feb. 26:</b> M. Gandhi Letter: "the life span of human beings is preordained..." -- Fantastic Spiritual Content. $7,000 to $8,000.
    <center><b>University Archives<br>Autographs, Books & Relics Including Kerouac Estate<br>& Hemingway<br>February 26, 2020</b>
    <b>University Archives, Feb. 26:</b> "Damn the torpedoes!" Riveting 24pp ALS of Admiral Farragut's Steward Describing the "Battle of Mobile Bay”. $6,000 to $7,000.
    <b>University Archives, Feb. 26:</b> Abraham Lincoln Signed Order to Suspend Execution. $5,000 to $6,000.
    <b>University Archives, Feb. 26:</b> Napoleon DS Featuring Imperial Eagle and Enormous Great Seal Appointing Norman Politician Baron of the Empire. $4,000 to $5,000.

Article Search

Archived Articles

Ask Questions