Leave it to librarians to celebrate the holidays by promoting the power of books. Here, we have the earliest example of the Christmas cards send to Cleveland Public Library staff and library students. This card is dated 1903, measures 3 1/8 by 5 7/8 inches, and is printed on heavy card stock. The inscription reads:
“We believe in the power of good books to enlarge and enrich human life; we believe in the mission of the Library in bringing these books to the people; we believe in library workers as agents in this good work; we believe in the strength which comes of united effort and mutual helpfulness; so believing, let us give each to the other the helping hand, and each to our work our highest endeavor!”
According to a memo from William H. Brett, the Library’s Director from 1884-1918 and one of the nation’s great founding librarians, the card features the “oldest Old English type still in use, cut before 1525, probably at Rouen, France,” a border in “an Elzevir design, made about the 17th century,” and “an initial designed and cut specially for the card.” The straight line borders are in gold.
You’ll have to trust us when we say the photograph does not do this card justice—it’s beautiful in person. And while we don’t know the origin of the quote, or if it was written by Brett himself, it’s a message that has stood the test of time and remains just as relevant today.