Celebrating the Gifts That Give for a Lifetime

Cara/Andrea here, Wishing everyone a joyous day filled with peace and love. This is traditionally a day to gather and make merry with family and friends, brightening the darkest days of the years with festive good cheer and sparkly decorations.

It's also a time for exchanging gifts, and giving thanks for our blessings. In that spirit, I'd love to share with you a small Holiday ormament made by my late mother, who was an amazing artist along with her many other talents. It's made out of vintage type ornaments and for me it not only celebrates the Season, but reminds me how she encouraged my love of reading from an early age. We shared countless hours through the years talking about stories and characters that entertained and inspired us. Reading taught me the joys of dreaming and using my imagination. That books are an important part of who I am is something I consider one of the great gifts in life.

Happy Holidays, Everyone! Thank you for being part of the Wench family! I hope books are among the presents sitting under the tree and in your stockings!

Red ornament-large


Top Ten Books I’d Like To Find Under The Tree

John-James-Audubon’s-Birds-Of-America-3Cara/Andrea here,
With holiday shopping in full swing, I’ve been busy perusing the stores for the perfect gifts for those on my list. It’s fun to try to find something unique and special to match the interests of family and friends. But I confess, as I’ve been searching around for others, I’ve also amused myself by compiling a wish list for myself—assuming Santa Claus is feeling VERY generous. (Hey, I’ve been VERY good this past year!) So, here is my Top Ten list of rare book treasures that I’d love to add to my library:

Birds of America
John James Audubon’s first edition of Birds of America (known as the double elephant folio because of its size) is considered the finest book of ornithological illustrations ever created. It was a very expensive project to print—Audubon had to do a lot of self-promo around Europe to sell subscriptions to fund it. The cost was $1,000, a very princely sum in the 1820s. But it turned out to be a wise investment (A copy sold last year at Christie’s for $7.9 million)

HypnerotomachiaHypnerotomachia Poliphili

Printed by the legendary Aldus Manutius in Venice at the end of 1499, HP is the first illustrated book printed with Gutenberg’s newly invented moveable type. It’s strange, dream-like text has puzzled scholars over the centuries, but collectors agreed that it’s the most beautiful of all incunabula (books printed before 1500.) The perfectly proportioned layout, the lovely woodcuts and the elegant typeface—a classic design that is still in use today—make it one of the most famous examples of book design in history.  (A copy recently sold at auction for $473,321.)

MoxonAlfred Tennyson’s Poems 

Known as the Moxon Tennyson, this edition was published by Edward Moxon in 1857. It’s famous for its 54 beautiful wood engravings designed by eight noted artists of the day, including Pre-Raphaelites William Holman Hunt and Dante Gabriel Rossetti. One critic called it a “pocket cathedral. (A copy is available from a rare book dealer for $2,500.)

The Kelmscott Chaucer

Published in 1896, The Works of Geoffrey Chaucer—known today as The Kelmscott Chaucer—was a joint labor of love by William Morris, a luminary of the artistic and intellectual scene in late 19th century Britain, who designed the typeface and intricate borders, and his good friend Edward Burne-Jones, one of the leaders of the Kelmscott_chaucer-largerPre-Raphaelite movement, who did the illustrations. It’s considered by many to be the most beautiful book ever published. (A copy was recently sold at auction for $160,000.)

P&PPride and Prejudice

Published in 1813, Jane Austen’s classic was released in three small volumes—and of course when on to become one of the most popular novels in the English language. (A copy is available on ebay for $65,000.)

The History of the Royal Residences of Windsor Castle, St. James Palace, Carlton House, Kensington Palace, Hampton Court, Buckingham House and Frogmore

Writer/artist William Henry Pyne often collaborated with Rudolph Ackermann on projects for Ackermann’s magazines, but he became fascinated with book publishing and was inspired to create this book on Royal residencesthe royal residences, published in 1809. It includes 100 lovely color illustrations. (A copy is for sale at Bauman Rare Books in NYC for $17,000.)

The Golden Cockerel Press edition of The Four Gospels
GillDesigned and illustrated by the legendary 20th century graphic designer Eric Gill, the Four Gospels was his homage to the Medieval art of the illuminated manuscript. It’s considered one of the highlights of modern book design. (A copy, one of only 12 that were printed on vellum, recently sold at auction for $132,00. A paper first edition sells for about $4,700.)

Le Chant des Morts

A collaboration between poet Pierre Reverdy and his friend Pablo Picasso, the book—which was published in 1948—features handwritten poems written during World War Two, with bold graphic illustrations Mortby the master artist. (A copy recently sold for $7,500.)

Don Juan 
Lord Byron’s epic satirical poem, which had an unfinished 17th canto at the time of his death, is considered by many critics to be his masterpiece. (A complete set in original boards of the 16 Cantos in seven volumes recently sold for $16,800.)

The Fabulous Flight 

Written and illustrated by the great Robert Lawson, it’s a children’s classic that was first published in 194
9. I vividly remember it from my childhood—it’s a marvelous story that held me captivated, and Fabulous Flightlooking back, I think it was one of the reads that taught me the power of storytelling. The illustrations are delightful too, which appealed to the art side of my brain. (A collector’s first edition is available on Amazon for $75.)

So what about you? If you could find any book treasure among the brightly wrapped holiday gifts, what would it be? Or perhaps there's some other special treasure on your ultimate Wish List—please share it with Santa's elves!

Gifts That Last A Lifetime

Cara/Andrea here,

KindleWe're coming to the end of our 12 Days of Christmas musings, and as we all pack up the decorations and resolve to lose the weight we’ve gained from all the scrumptious holiday goodies, I thought I’d share a few thoughts on some of the gifts—both past and present—that will last far longer than a a few weeks.

I finally moved into the 21st century of book technology—one of my presents this season was a Kindle. Now, I had held off getting one for the longest time, as I love the tactile feel of ink and paper. I still do, but for travel I think it’s going to be very cool. I’ve already AD--2-yr-old-cowboy-2-downloaded a lot of classics from Amazon that I’ve been meaning to read over the years, and now I have them at my fingertips! I have to go into NYC on the train tomorrow, and instead of lugging one or two heavy books in my purse, I can now slip the featherlight e-reader into it and have lots of space left over. So change is good! (And hey, anything that encourages people to read is a winner in my book.)

So, I’m very thankful that I got a gift that enriches my life. But it also got me to thinking about what was my favorite gift of all time. Hmmm. A hard question, but the more I mulled it over, the more I came to the conclusion that it was the cowboy outfit I got when I was 4 years old.

AD-horses-book-croppedNow, you are probably asking why. Well, it’s because it started me making up stories and taught me the magic of make-believe. I would dress up in that outfit and be lost for hours in my own little world . . . it even inspired me to write my first book—a story on horses in the Wild West.

That gift has lasted a lifetime, and made me appreciate the power of the imagination. No high tech gizmos, no flashy touch screens or streaming video . . . just a few pieces of cotton and a pair of leather boots got my mind off and running.

What about you? Do you have a memorable holiday gift from the past? Or did you get a gift this season that made your heart sing?