Q: I was given a copy of a fabric book titled “The Night Before Christmas.” It was a Christmas gift to my uncle in 1906, when he was a child. The book is intact but quite faded.
A: At one time, Saalfield Publishing Co. created a group of children’s books made of muslin. They could be washed and were hard to tear. The company, founded by Alfred J. Saalfield in Akron, Ohio, in 1899, was the country’s largest publisher of children’s books. Saalfield published coloring books, paper dolls, storybooks, educational toys and games. The company closed in 1977 and its library and archives were bought by Kent State University in Kent, Ohio, for its special collection of children’s books. The university lists the publication date of your book as 1912, so your book is not quite as old as you thought. The poem we know as “The Night Before Christmas” by Clement Clarke Moore (1779-1863) was published in a newspaper in 1823 under the title “Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas.” The author’s name was not listed, but in 1844 it was included in a book of Moore’s poems. There is some controversy today about his authorship because evidence suggests the original poem was written by Henry Livingston Jr. (1748-1828). Your book is faded, so the value is only about $15. Books in excellent condition sell for $100.