“Christmas Bells and Peter Parley’s Annual have been for many, many years associated in the affections of the rising generation all the world over. But it is my earnest hope,” declares the avuncular editor, “that my young friends will find amongst the stores of entertainment I have this year provided for them something more durable than Christmas chimes–something that when the merry cadences of those bells have died away, and the pudding is gone, and the holly is taken down and cast into the fire, will serve to make them a Christmas all the year round.” And what exactly is Peter Parley’s contribution to the promised Annual feast? “Every variety of wholesome entertainment” frosted with plenty of knowledge.
But fine words butter no parsnips and a book can’t be judged by its cover. Does Peter Parley’s Annual for 1868 also contain “things to delight the eye” more than they “gratify the mind,” like its gold-stamped binding decorated with tops, cricket bats, kites, and butterflies?
Among the “things to delight the eye” in the 1868 Annual are seven color-printed wood-engraved plates, neatly signed “W. Dickes” in the lower right hand corner. The ones of marine life are particularly nice.
And who took out a full-page illustrated announcement in “Peter Parley’s Annual Advertiser” at the end but William Dickes? He must have reasoned that if there were an informative advertisement for his full-service business proximate to his fine plates, plenty of papas looking at the book with their children might be inspired to engage the “artist, engraver on wood, lithographer, and oil colour printer” for some venture.
A similar tactic to drum up business was used by another contributor to the 1868 volume. Eugene Rimmel wrote an article entitled, “Sweet Things at the Paris Exhibition,” but he did not set out to enumerate all the marvelous confections invented for the delight of our palates and the ruin of our teeth” that were arrayed at the World’s Fair–“the lolypops of England, the bonbons of France, the confetti of Italy, the chocolate of Spain, the Lebkuchen of Germany, the biscottes of Belgium, the rahat lakoum of Turkey, the preserved ginger of India, the guava jelly of South America.” His subject was perfume and one of the marvels described at the Exhibition was a cottage in which “a complete collection of perfumery materials, a still at work, and models of all the implements used in the trade” were on view.
And if M. Rimmel’s readers were unable to visit the cottage in person, they could learn about the sweet olfactory art in his Book of Perfumes, which was one of Christmas novelties that could be purchased at any of three convenient locations in London.
The enterprising Mr. John Davies surely would have imitated Dickes and Rimmel, if the contents of the Annual had featured an appropriate selection. But perhaps it was just as well that there wasn’t…