Christmas at the Nineteenth-Century Bookstore

In Book of Small, her memoir about her childhood in Victoria, Emily Carr recalls the red cardboard sign that Thomas Napier Hibben hung in his bookstore’s window each December, its “Merry Christmas” message written with cotton wool.

In nineteenth-century Victoria (as now, judging by the lineup at my local bookstore the other day), Christmas shoppers flocked to bookstores for gifts. In addition to books, they were drawn to all the fancy goods and “requisites necessary in a first class stationery store,” as the following article describes:

(Colonist, December 8, 1886, p. 3)

Among the attractions were a fairly new item at the time: Christmas cards. The Prang cards mentioned above were those of Louis Prang, the Boston-based printer who is credited as the father of the American Christmas card when he became the first American publisher of Christmas cards in 1875.

Diaries for the upcoming year were another popular, heavily advertised Christmas gift item. Selections numbered in the dozens, with many bound in fine leather, edged in gilt, sized for a pocket, and complete with additional compartments for bills and calling cards.

(Colonist, December 18, 1878, p. 2)

(Feature image for this blog post on the home page is from, Christmas card, L. Prang and Co., 1876. PR 31, Bella C. Landauer Collection)

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