Gifts from Christmas Past

As part of a Digital History assignment which correlates with the 2011 Christmas shopping season, this blog looks at various books that were available to order through the Eaton’s Christmas Catalog in 1913. I chose six books from the catalog and searched the internet to find digital copies of each one. I chose two Beatrix Potter books purely for nostalgic purposes, a cookbook from Southwestern Ontario, two etiquette books which lay the framework for a well-organized and standardized imperial society and a literary classic whose book covers expresses a great deal about cultural norms at the time of printing.

1. Title: The Tale of the Pie and the Patty Pan                     

Author: Beatrix Potter

Published: 1905





2. Title: The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck                            

Author: Beatrix Potter

Published: 1908






The first site I found to have a full e-book copy of both books is through Project Gutenberg. Each copy is downloaded from Ibiblio and offers the user a choice of file formats from which to download: plain text, HTML, Epub, Kindle and Plucker.

While on the download page, the user can also choose to download from a ‘mirror’ site, which according to Project Gutenberg, can offer a faster download. []

By clicking in the ‘mirror’ sites, the choices are arranged by country. Although Project Gutenberg suggests choosing a link from a region closest to the user to speed up the download, I found that the geographic location did not make a difference. In fact, Dalhousie University in Halifax Nova Scotia loaded much more slowly than the University of Adelaide Library in Australia. Thus some of the links, regardless of their geographic distance from London Ontario, provided a more efficient and complete download of images compared to that of ‘mirror’ sites in closer proximity.

Here are a few ‘mirror’ sites from which I tested download speed of text and images.

The only two ‘mirror’ sites which would not load at all were links from Romania and Taiwan resulting in the following messages: “550 Failed to Change Directory” or “File Error”. Other features on Project Gutenberg that the user may find appealing can be found in the top tabs next to the download page. The user has the option of connecting directly to Twitter or Facebook to research blogs, follow posts and make comments about the downloads available for this particular book. Not only can the user find recommendations for other sources of a similar genre, this is a great way for those new to Project Gutenberg, or e-books for that matter, to discover what others have written about the quality of the download and to stay informed of recent additions to the catalog. One last feature is the QR Code tab which enables the user to view the book on their mobile phone by scanning the QR Code.

Although the Internet Archive catalog lists both of these books, the download is re-directed to Project Gutenberg. Google Books does not provide full copies of these books and due to copy right restrictions on access use, Hathi Trust do not offer a full e-book download either. However, the user can perform a word search within the book via the ‘limited-search only’ option which provides segments of the text based upon words and phrases entered in the search box. Hathi also provides a link to local libraries which may carry a copy for lending. Apart from Project Gutenberg, the Children’s Nursery Web site offers a full e-book for both of these Potter books but only for online viewing, not for downloads:

The final word on finding full e-book downloads for both of these Beatrix Potter books, rests with Project Gutenberg.


3. Title: The New Galt Cook Book

 Author: Margaret Taylor and Frances McNaught

Published: 1898






The first site I came across that provides a full digital version of this cookbook is from Library and Archives Canada:

Although downloading is not an option, the user can view the entire book online by clicking on the digitized Table of Contents. Each recipe includes the donor’s name and location. Internet Archive provides a full copy for borrow, sale or download in various file formats [PDF, plain text, DAISY, ePub, Kindle and DjVu for streaming]. This book is not available via Google Books, Hathi Trust or Project Gutenberg.


4. Title: Manners and Rules of Good Society

Author: A Member of the Aristocracy

Published: 34th Edition (1911-1912) from Eaton’s Catalog 1913-1914






15th Edition (1888) available from Internet Archive:

35th Edition (1913) available from Internet Archive and Hathi Trust:

38th Edition (1916) available from Internet Archive (2 copies) and Project Gutenberg:

As seen above, Internet Archive carries the largest number of editions for this book beginning in 1888 with the 15th edition, the 35th edition in 1913 and the 38th edition in 1916. The 1913-1914 edition of the Eaton’s catalogue advertised the 34th edition which was published in 1911. This means that Eaton’s was selling an older edition on that particular calendar year. Reasons for this are unclear apart from an estimated guess that the 35th edition was not available at the time of printing the Eaton’s catalogue for Christmas of 1913. After a bit of research, it appears that the 1st edition was published in or around 1879 with consecutive editions following annually up until 1924 with the 45th edition. It is interesting to note that this book, deemed significant enough in popular culture to print 45 editions, suddenly ceased publication in 1924.


5. Title: The New Standard Business and Social Letter-Writer

Author: Alfred B. Chambers

Published: 1911






Staying within a similar genre of social etiquette is this handy guide to letter writing. First published in 1900 this second edition (1911) was available to order from the Eaton’s catalogue 1913-1914. The original title for the first edition The New Century Standard Letter-Writer was modified to The New Standard Business and Social Letter-Writer. Apart from the change in title, Chambers added a few other tidbits to his repertoire. For example, on the title page of the first edition the contents include: Business, Family& Social Correspondence; love-letters; etiquette. The second edition in 1911 contains the same themes but with the added: acceptances & refusals. It is interesting how Chambers found these last two aspects of letter writing important enough to include them in the later edition, as a way to meet the standards of early 20th century etiquette. Although Project Gutenberg does not hold either edition, Internet Archive has the older edition in a variety of file formats:

Both editions of full text e-books can be found on Hathi Turst Digital Library:

1st Edition 1900:

2nd Edition 1911 also available from Easton’s Catalogue 1913-1914:


6. Title: Uncle Tom’s Cabin


Author: Harriet Beecher Stowe

Published: the first three editions published by the author (1852, 1878 & 1879)


One of the most striking elements of my research into this book was the variety of book covers to be found online illustrating Uncle Tom and the various characters within the story. The images alone provide a glimpse into popular culture and the societal perspectives of ethnic and racial awareness at the time of printing. Another interesting feature is the depiction of the author’s name. In the 1913-1914 Eaton’s catalogue, this book is advertised under the author Miss Stowe while other editions print her name in full. Internet Archive holds 138 full copies of the e-book with various file formats and several editions mostly from 1852, the first edition:

Hathi Trust has 56 copies of full text e-books with various editions, but again, mostly from the original printing in 1852 which includes illustrations by George Cruikshank, renowned London illustrator for Charles Dickens and of the Graphic newspaper:

Project Gutenberg also has complete copies of the book online and for download in a variety of file formats and notwithstanding the Uncle Tom’s Cabin: Young Folks Editions.

Another site which offers a full text download is epubbooks:

And Literature Project offer an online version:

Based upon online research into the preceding books, it would seem that the number of prints and editions made of each one is indicative of their popularity and hence their lasting quality throughout the ages. The Potter books for example are not just a reminiscence of my childhood but represent a bygone era of children’s literature. So many of the books found on the Eaton’s catalogue from 1913 are still on many shopping lists for Christmas 2011. Although 21st century cultural norms have changed a great deal since the days of etiquette guide books, I wonder if some of those standards could make a ‘come-back’ to infiltrate our digital world. I am referring to the text-savvy teen, whose addiction to social networking sites has often resulted in verbal communication break-down and heinous acts against the English language [r u lol? idk!]. You never know, perhaps a copy of The New Standard Business and Social Letter-Writer could be the next best stocking-stuffer….calligraphy anyone?


5 comments on “Gifts from Christmas Past

  1. Robert Cohn says:

    Hello –

    You have an image of a book on this blog that I acquired recently: “The New Century Standard Letter Writer”. I have been trying to find out who illustrated the front cover of the book. It looks remarkably like the style of the man who was one of the illustrators of the Wizard of Oz series: Jno R. Neill.

    I am not able to see a signature on the front cover. Perhaps your copy is in better shape and you can see if the illustrator signed it.

    Much appreciated if you can shed any light on the illustrator.

    Best regards.

    • Alfred B. Chambers was on my copy. Hope this helps!

      • R. Cohn says:

        Hi Laurie –

        Thanks for the reply, but I believe Alfred B Chambers is the author of the book. It’s the illustrator I was interested in, as it looks very much like the work of John R. Neill, who illustrated many of the early “Wizard of Oz” children’s books.

        Best regards.

      • My apologies, I didn’t read your query properly. Unfortunately I haven’t a copy of the book, as at the time of writing the blog post, I used a copy from our university archive. However, I may be able to locate a copy and can share any information I find regarding the illustrations/illustrator. Sorry I cannot help further at this time but give me a few days and I’ll get back to you.

      • Hello again;
        Sorry but I haven’t anything new to share regarding the illustration on the front jacket. I agree that the work does seem to fit that of John Neill but can’t be 100% certain. I had considered that this was the work of an ‘in-house’ illustrator working for Laird & Lee but I haven’t been able to find out who worked for them during the publication of this book. Anyway, good luck with the search…hope you find the name of the artist and if you do, I would be interested in knowing who did the illustration.

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