History in the Making

The Lure of Beautiful Books

I will admit to being one of those people who is all business with their books. I only read appendices if I specifically need information from them, I tend to only read short dedications (sorry, authors!), and pictures? Not really necessary. Or, I used to be like that. I’ve slowly come around to the lure of beautiful books, and am loving the way that they impact my reading experience. So, today I am going to share my favourite beautiful books and a little bit more about them!

The Lure of Beautiful Books

I can’t say that I am huge coffee table book person- I feel like if you want your coffee table to be functional, you don’t typically have a ton of things on it haha. (It’s a good place to blog and hang out with Agnes.) And if I’m being honest, I don’t even know if these count as coffee table books. But either way, I’ve come to truly appreciate these beautiful books, and the difference they make in my reading!

I find that I don’t need pictures or illustrations in most books. I usually want to dig into the story, and don’t want anything weighing me down. However, in beloved fiction books, and lighter history books, I’m starting to love a bit of colour and life on the pages! That doesn’t mean that I won’t read a book without it, or I don’t love my e-books (because I do) but I’m starting to enjoy the finer things in my reading life…

Debrett’s Royal Scotland, Jean Goodman and Sir Iain Moncrieffe of that Ilk

1983 edition of Debrett's Royal Scotland

Oh, this truly is a hidden gem of a book! I chatted about this in my vintage royal reads post but now that I am making my way through it, I’m loving it even more. Yes, it’s from 1983 and talks about the burgeoning marriage of Charles and Diana (YIKES.) but it is still a fantastic intro to the history of royal properties in Scotland. I love the historical drawings of the places and events that happened there, as well as inclusions of more modern photographs.

Royal Archers Company in Debrett's Royal Scotland

Several of the castles are still there for you to visit (as an existing home or ruins), but some are gone entirely, and it is wonderful to be able to learn more about the castles I’ve heard so much about. I also very much appreciated the family tree of the Scottish royal family! It can be a tad confusing to follow them throughout histories with repeat names and not a lot of information on some of them, but being laid out point blank is quite helpful. And I think that there is just something cool about vintage history books that makes them even more beautiful… How often do you find a book like this for only $3 by accident??

Scottish Royal Family Tree in Debrett's Royal Scotland

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, JK Rowling, illustrated by Jim Kay

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, illustrated by Jim Kay

Although this is a contentious opinion, Prisoner of Azkaban is my favourite book in the Harry Potter series. It hit the right note of action without intense darkness, and we learn a lot about the Potter-verse in it. So, I was particularly excited when I found out that there would be an illustrated version of it. Jim Kay is such a talented illustrator, and he really has brought Prisoner of Azkaban to life without being cartoon-y and overtly childish. I also find that it adds a lot to the story that I already know and love. For example, I love the blue china tile pattern at the beginning of Chapter Four, “The Leaky Cauldron”. I hadn’t given a ton of thought to the Leaky Cauldron itself because of everything going on there, but that little detail sticks out now when I’m re-reading it and gives me a better picture.

Decorated Leaky Cauldron Title Page in illustrated Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Also, I find that some illustrations in this book are just a perfect touch. Sir Cadogan bolting through a field while he leaves his horse behind?? Classic. Yes, most of us read the Harry Potter books when we were children, but they bridge so well into adulthood. I was worried when the illustrated books were first announced that they would be quite childish, but I don’t think that is the case at all with Kay’s work. My goal is to read a chapter a day every day in January, and share my favourite my favourite pages on my Instagram stories- let me know if you are interested in doing a read a long!

Sir Cadogan running away from his horse in illustrated Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

A Royal Christmas, Louise Cooling

The Royal Collection Trust's A Royal Christmas

This is a new present to myself, and if I do say so myself, I’m a great gift-giver to me. A Royal Christmas is a production from the Royal Collection Trust, and so has access to many, many sources that most of us can only dream of seeing! This is a brief history of royal Christmases and all of the traditions that go along with that. The book itself looks gorgeous, with the gold scrolling really standing out. It is also physically a slightly smaller book. Normally I wouldn’t really comment on that, but one of the major downfalls of most beautiful books is that they tend to be larger and difficult to read in most positions. However, because this is smaller and lighter, that is not a problem at all!

Photograph of Queen Victoria's Sledge in A Royal Christmas

And once you dive in, you all of sudden get to see Queen Victoria’s sledge, personal letters, and photographs have never been released before. For anyone who is at all interested in royal history, this is a perfect gift. Normally I don’t associate navy with Christmas, but it the perfect backdrop for this beautiful book, and now I’m on the hunt for more books from the Royal Collection Trust. (I have the Holyroodhouse guide but otherwise I am starting from scratch, and I see a collection building haha.) It strikes that balance between being informative and still light, and I’m hoping more of the RCT books do the same!

Cover page for royal Christmas tree traditions in A Royal Christmas

Do you care what your book looks like, or just what is inside? Do you seek out beautiful books?

Cheers,
The Historian
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