In 1865, Boston-based printer Louis Prang (1824-1909), introduced the Christmas Stocking Library, a boxed set of chapbooks full of holiday merriment for the kiddies. This was published nine years before he introduced the first commercial Christmas card to the American public in 1874. Prang, a German immigrant, learned the art of dyeing, printing, and engraving from his father who was a textile printer of calico fabrics. In 1848 Prang was forced to flee Germany because of his political opposition to the Prussian government. Two years later he arrived in Boston and supported himself by making wood engravings for various publications and eventually partnered with Julius Mayer to form Prang and Mayer, Lithographic Printers. They specialized in the printing of business cards, advertisements, and other job printing, and also gained some success with the printing of a series of colored album cards featuring scenic landscapes, animals and flowers which were sold for $3/dozen inside a patented envelope. Just like this boxed set of Christmas chapbooks, the illustrated album cards were printed in four colors, each drawn on stone and folded into accordion structures. The label appearing on the box of the Christmas Stocking Library was printed five solid colors.
The title page and interior illustrations in each chapbook are early examples of Prang's chromolithography.
As a side story to this lovely little Christmas Stocking Library; it was sold last February at the PBA Galleries auction for $5500. This very rare boxed set belonged to book collector, Pamela Harer, who I last reported on July 3, 2014 when she attended the opening of her Early 20th Century Soviet Children's Books exhibition held at the University of Washington's Allen Library in Seattle. Unbeknownst to me at the time, Pamela was very ill and died the day before I wrote the post. She lived just long enough to receive a private family tour of her remarkable exhibit on July 1st, and quietly died at home on the following day. This exhibit was a dream Pamela had envisioned for many years. It was also her remaining wish that this rare collection of Soviet children's books was to permanently reside at the UW Library. Although much of her research was sadly eclipsed by her illness, Pamela Harer's collection of early 20th century Soviet children's literature remains intact and we can all benefit from her generous gift. At this time her collection has not been entirely digitized, however an earlier endowment of her rare 18th - 20th century children's literature can be seen here. Happily, the gift of books is everlasting. Happy holidays all!