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preparing "Gems for the Fireside,” the Publishers have coöperated heartily with the Editor in his effort to produce a book of unequalled excellence. He has gathered the “apples of gold;" they have set them in " pictures of silver.”
Particular attention has been given to every detail of the publication. Paper has been prepared expressly for this volume. Its texture is firm and durable; its surface is elegantly finished; and its tone is delicate and pleasing to the eye.
Typographical effects have been carefully studied at every point, the aim being to secure beauty in the page, with the greatest possible comfort to the reader. In the matter of binding, materials have been selected with reference to durability and elegant appearance, while the workmanship is in the best style of the art.
Illustrative art has been taxed to the utmost in the adornment of the book, and in its pictorial embellishment. At greatly increased editorial and pecuniary expense, the illustrations are all made to elucidate the various poems and prose pieces of the text. They form an artistic commentary on the choice subject-matter, and give a charming and picturesque effect to the entire work.
In addition to the numerous full-page illustrations, and those of smaller size, there is a superb steel-plate Frontispiece of Longfellow, the world-renowned and beloved American poet.
In view of the special fitness of “Gems for the Fireside” as a gift book, a beautifullywrought illuminated Presentation Plate is inserted also.
Among the distinguished artists whose pictorial gems adorn these pages, are Bensell, Darley, Grey, Hill, Hennessey, Heine, Herrick, Kensett, Linton, Macdonough, McEntee, Moran, Parsons, Smillie, Sooy, Schell, Sweeney (Boz)., and many others equally skillful.
A complete double system of Indexing, gives ready access to all the contents of this Treasury. Illustrations, with their titles and descriptive quotations; Authors, with their several works as found in this casket; Poems, by titles and by first lines; and Prose articles, by titles, are all given in the copious and carefully prepared indexes.
In short, whatever care and generous expenditure has been able to do to secure completeness and elegance, has been done in “Gems for the Fireside.” And now it is presented to the consideration of an appreciative public.
HESE terms from the title-page of the Publishers, admirably and
sufficiently express the scope and aim of the present beautifully illustrated volume. It has been the constant endeavor of both Publishers and Editor to gather from the entire range of litera
ture the very finest pieces, and the accumulated productions of the ages have been scanned, again and again, in order to secure such Gems as shall reach the high standard of excellence indicated by the Publishers in their prospectus.
Every unique work in literature has a history which may be thoroughly known and felt by its author, and yet be unknown and unsuspected by its reader. This history may be an extended one. Great preachers have said of their best sermons, that it had taken them many years to prepare them. They were the product of a lifetime spent in observation and study. Gray's Elegy, revolved in his own mind, was rewritten under fresh inspiration, and pruned again and again, until that brief poem stands as the one beautiful monument of his literary life.
Poe's name and fame live chiefly in that wonderful production "The Raven;" the outcome, doubtless, of some deep, wild, intense, personal experience. Miss Nancy Priest wrote nothing comparable with her exquisite “ Over the River,” and Mrs. Alexander gave us, to be treasured forever, “The Burial of Moses."
Exquisite gems of literature, in prose and poetry, are not often the productions of the cool thought of men and women of genius, but rather they are the outcome of some all-absorbing inspiration resulting from intense personal feeling, or from some momentous event. Patrick Henry's evermemorable words were fired to the white heat of devotion to his country by the crisis upon which hung the destinies of her three millions of people, and the question of freedom to this New World. Only the demands of a terrible crisis in the great war of the Rebellion, could have produced the immortal Emancipation Proclamation.
Not unfrequently the accumulated thought of years is fixed and formulated by the occurrences of an instant. Glowing devotion to our country's flag found quick expression in “The Star Spangled Banner," when, after a night of fierce bombardment, dawn disclosed it still proudly floating over the walls of old Fort McHenry. The overwhelming pride of an obedient British soldiery gave expression to the pen of Tennyson, in that intense and thrilling poem, “The Charge of the Light Brigade," when the noble six hundred made their famous dash at Balaklava.
As the great crises of human history call forth the great utterances, the world may never have another “Uncle Tom's Cabin,” or “Fool's Errand.” As but few men have been permitted to impress humanity by many beroic deeds, so but few poets, philosophers, statesmen, or orators, have given many “apples of gold in pictures of silver" to the world.
Because of these well-attested facts one may possess many volumes, in most of which a few beauties form the chief attraction. The gems impart the value. Without them the volumes would lack their lustre. Not the mass of soil and rock, but the gold and jewels in that mass give value to the El Dorados and the Great Bonanzas of the world. And so it is with books.
In gathering “Gems for the Fireside,” real gems only have been sought. Numberless productions of average worth have been passed by.