The succession of literary annuals that were first published in 1823, and maintained popularity through the next four decades, were the first books mass produced specifically as gift items. Compilations of poetry, short stories and essays that were chosen for their breadth of appeal and anodyne content rather than any particular literary merit, they were deliberately intended to be given as Christmas presents rather than read by their purchaser. As such, their emphasis was on beautiful presentation, and they were often lavish and innovative productions in printing terms, with coloured and embossed covers.
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