To find a book under the tree is truly a wonderful gift. Books offer much more than ordinary presents. They offer mystery, adventure, inspiration, and hope – all in a very small package.
Although any book is a splendid treasure to receive, some books stand out as being heirloom-quality – resplendent hardcovers with beautiful scripts and enchanting illustrations.
This list features books that fall in that category. These are books that are a delight to hold, a luxury to read, and a wonder to see on a bookshelf.
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (Calla Editions, 2018)
If I were to imagine the perfect cover for “A Christmas Carol,” this might be it. A handsome and festive Christmas red hardcover is embossed with a gorgeous, glittering gold lettering. This is the full, unabridged version with whimsical and fitting illustrations by Arthur Rackham.
Black Beauty by Anna Sewell (Folio Society, 2018)
Horse lovers – young and old – will be irresistibly drawn into the pages of this sad, yet hopeful, classic. The design of this book is stunning, from the cover illustration to the classy spine. Includes beautiful calligraphy for chapter titles, as well as emotional and action-oriented drawings that show the grace and strength of Beauty as she tells her own story. As a perfectly lovely bonus, each page is adorned with a horse on the lower right side. If you flip the pages quickly, you will see the horse gallop gracefully from page one all the way through the end. Dare I say it? This book is truly a…beauty.
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (Folio Society, 2014)
It is a trying task to publish long novels. Many publishers fail the task considerably by putting out small paperbacks with itty bitty text, which is not at all appealing for readers nor easy to read for aging eyes. Folio Society’s edition, however, is superb – with a pretty cover, as well as illustrations by Rebecca Green that sublimely fit the story. My only wish is that there were even more pictures since the illustrator did such a top-rate job.
The Hundred and One Dalmatians by Dodie Smith (Folio Society, 2017)
Packaged in a black-and-white spotted box, this glamorous book is gift-worthy in every sense of the word. The cover features an assortment of spotted dogs leaping off the cover. Inside, you’ll find text in exactly the right size and style of font (not too small, not too large, and easy to read) with red-dyed sketches that perfectly match the tone of the book.
The Odyssey by Homer (Calla Editions, 2015)
If you are a fan of the classics and/or of Greek mythology (or know someone who is), you can’t go wrong with an impressive tome of “The Odyssey.” Wrapped in a deep navy cover with a tumultuous ocean scene on the front, this hardcover version uses the verse translation by American poet William Cullen Bryant. The satiny pages offer plentiful white space, as well as fifteen full color paintings by artist N.C. Wyeth.
The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan (Anniversary Collector’s Edition, Attic Books)
This book is even more exquisite in-person than in pictures. For starters, it is HUGE. The 920-page volume is eleven inches tall, nine inches wide, and weighs in at almost five pounds! The cover is elegantly and ornately illustrated and the inside includes the complete, unabridged copy of the text – plus John Bunyan’s memoir, his last sermon, his personal account of his life before Christ, and over a dozen artistic illustrations to narrate scenes in the novel. The text is in a very appropriate archaic font and is in large print. Truly a book to be passed down between generations.
The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan (Calla Editions, 2014)
Calla Editions offers another admirable version of the best-selling fictional adventure at a more affordable price point. Every page is black-and-white and features changing detailed borders to complement each scene. There are also full-page pen and ink illustrations that beckon the reader more fully into the story.
The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken (Folio Society)
One of my favorite childhood books! Last month, I read it aloud to my kids and they were equally enthralled by the story. We’d sit around the fire, with blankets swirled around us, and everyone would yell, “One more chapter!” This wonderful Folio edition features a melancholy grey hardcover with shadows of wolves, which are a foreshadowing of the action in this edge-of-your-seat novel for children.
What heirloom quality books do you own and/or which ones are on your wish list?
BROWSE the complete 2018 Christmas Gift Guide to get ideas for everyone on your list!