The Baltimore Book, A Christmas and New Year’s Present

The book that caught my eye this week is The Baltimore Book, a collection of works by authors who lived in Baltimore for an extended period of time and were considered local talent. Among the stories collected within is Edgar Allan Poe’s “Siope, – A Fable.” The book is visually striking with its gold decoration on a black leather cover.

The Baltimore Book, A Christmas and New Year's Present Baltimore: Bayly and Burns, 1838, (Murphy & Spalding, printers)

On the front cover, the Baltimore’s Battle Monument is depicted in gold. This monument is not only an aesthetic choice, but also one that is loyal to Baltimore natives. This monument commemorates a pivotal battle in the War of 1812, which was even more relevant for the intended buyers of this book in 1838.

The spine features large ornate type that assert this as “Baltimore Book 1838.” As the book was intended to be an end-of-year gift idea, it was actually printed in 1837 and sold as part of the new year. Above the title and year on the spine is a monument I cannot identify, but it is very interesting and beautiful. Below both of these, covering the lower 60% of the spine, is a gold rendering of the Washington Monument in the Mount Vernon District. It is a very lovely and detailed depiction of the monument and I can understand why they chose to put it in such a prominent place on the book. For a Baltimorean, it would be a sense of hometown pride and would, quite simply, convince more people to buy the volume. Continuing with the gold and black theme that is so visually pleasing on the cover, the page edges have the remnants of gold leaf on them. They still sparkle a bit in the light, but age has worn down the luster of the gold.

Within the book, two things are easily noticed. The first is that the pages show foxing from age and the lack of constant conditions for conservation. This can be attributed to the second thing which is quickly observed: the title page is imprinted with the stamp of the Peabody Library in Mount Vernon. The building is very old and does not have the conservation abilities of the book’s current home on the Homewood Campus.

Overall, the book is a lovely volume, both in its intent and the execution of that intent present in the aesthetic nature of the binding. Had I been around on New Year’s Day 1838, I would have loved to buy a copy of such a book.

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