Talk about a holiday treat!
So fasten your seat belts and prepare for a whirlwind tour through a 19th century book and all of the cool stuff tucked away inside.
The book is an omnibus edition of two previous song books — "Triumphant Songs No. 1" had been published in 1887 by Excell, and "Triumphant Songs No. 2" had been published in 1889. The combined edition is packed with more than 400 pages of religious music and lyrics arranged by Excell and others.
The price of this combined edition ranged from 45 cents to 75 cents, depending on the quantity ordered and whether you wanted a cloth cover. (For perspective, a book that cost 45 cents in 1890 would cost about $11 today.)
Edwin Othello Excell (pictured at right), lived from 1851 to 1921 and was a well-known publisher, composer and song leader. He served as author or contributor to about 90 song books. While not all of his work involved religious music, he became noted for his 1909 arrangement of "Amazing Grace."
Much of his early work was done in western Pennsylvania, including Brady's Bend, East Brady and Oil City. In 1883, he moved to Chicago and his music-publishing business truly took off.
Excell's "Triumphant Songs" series spanned five volumes from 1887 to 1896.
As I said, this well-worn volume from 1890 contains numerous treasures inside. One of the first owners — perhaps the first owner — was Bettie Shultz, who wrote her name in pencil on the first page in 1891:
There were a number of pieces of ephemera tucked away inside the song book. Here is the rundown on a few of them:
- A list of numbers — 306, 232, 313, 430, 196 and 59 — that almost certainly refers to songs in the book.
- A single-sheet Bible lesson, torn from a book or booklet, for July 3. The lesson is titled "Pictures of the Kingdom" and is copyright 1894 by David C. Cook.
- A partial page torn from a program. The event, whatever it was, featured discussions with titles such as "Making Our Beliefs Count," "Choosing Our Life's Work," "Ideals for Social Relationships," and "Discussion Groups for Adult Workers." The inspirational address was delivered by Rev. Hunter B. Blakely, who was, according to a quick online search, a 1919 graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary.
That brings us to the pièce de résistance — a tiny Christmas card I found inside the song book. It measures only 2¾ inches by 4 inches. The card has separated into two pieces at the center fold. Here are images of the front and the inside:
The long-ago note inside the card reads: "Hearty greetings and good wishes for a happy Christmas. From Jno. J. Fix"
Believe it or not, "Jno." was most commonly used as an abbreviation for John, although there are some instances of it being an abbreviation for Jonathan. While it might seem odd, I guess it could be argued that Jno. represented a 25% savings in time and letters over John.
On the back of the Christmas card, in super-small type, is this credit line:
Designed at the studios in England
and printed at the Fine Art Works in Bavaria
Above that text is this logo (shown greatly magnified):
Raphael Tuck & Sons, according to Wikipedia, began business in City of London in 1866. The company enjoyed immense popularity with its production of pictures, greeting cards and, especially, postcards.
The company produced its first Christmas card in 1871. A Tuck & Sons holiday card similar to the one I discovered can be seen on this emotionscards.com history page.
Sadly, the company's headquarters, Raphael House, was destroyed on December 29, 1940, by Nazi bombing during The Blitz. The original artwork and photographs that the company had been storing in its archives for decades was mostly lost.