Prints in the Parlor

Prints in the Parlor is an online resource designed to provide access to engraved gift book illustrations in the Society's collection. Funded by a generous grant from the National Endowment of the Humanities (2009-2012), Prints in the Parlor provides multi-point access to over 3,600 images inside American gift books published between 1826 and 1850.

Gift books reached the peak of their popularity in the United States during the 1840s and '50s. Based on a British tradition, the elegantly bound books contain poetry, prose, and illustrations and were intended to be read at home in the parlor. They were marketed for the holiday trade, and often came out in November with titles such as the Christmas Gift from Fairyland or The Friendship's Offering and Winter's Wreath. There are several good bibliographies of American gift books (see below) that index the authors, texts, and titles of the illustrations.

Prints in the Parlor provides visual indexing for gift books. Each engraved gift book image is cataloged individually into the AAS General Catalog. The images are searchable by keywords in the description, assigned subject headings, and also by engraver and artist. All illustrations are digitized.

The project also provided cataloging and digitization for a portion of the Society's separately published engravings.

Details of the Project

  • Each image in Prints in the Parlor – whether it is a single, separate engraving, or it appears in a book with 12 engravings – is individually cataloged. For example, Fischer’s Drawing Room Scrap-book of 1833 has 36 illustrations; every one has a separate record. To view a list of the illustrations contained within a single volume, click on "Related Titles" to see a list of all the images in that volume.
  • If there was a change in the method of engraving (mezzotint v. engraving, stipple engraving v. engraving), size, or engraver, the image was given a new record.
  • When a plate was reused with the same title, and no variation was made, it was noted in the record but digitized only once.



Faxon, Frederick W. Literary Annuals and Gift Books: A Bibliography, 1823-1903. 1912. Reprint. Pinner, U.K.: Private Libraries Association, 1973.

Kirkham, E. Bruce, and John W. Fink, comps. Indices to American Literary Annuals and Gift Books, 1825-1865. New Haven, Conn.: Research Publications, 1975. Includes full tables of contents and lists of illustrations from the almost five hundred titles listed in Thompson’s bibliography, with author, engraver, title, and other indexes.

Thompson, Ralph. American Literary Annuals & Gift Books, 1825-1865. 1936. Reprint. Hamden, Conn.: Archon Books, 1967.

Prints in the Parlor has been described in a Past-is-Present blog entry.

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