The not so distant sound of jingle bells

Christmas in the Bookshop

Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat…

I know you are in denial, we all are. But Guy Fawkes night has passed and it is high time you knuckled down and made that Christmas list – or otherwise face that last minute panicked spending spree on unsuitable gifts. We don’t want a repetition of last year, do we…

So, sit down calmly with a nice glass of wine. Make a list of those who are cards only, those who need presents and those lucky few who you want to give special presents to. Think about them and what they like – write down a keyword or two. Are they explorers who revel in travel and discovery? Readers who would relish a beautiful book? Do they love quizzes and crosswords? Are they halfway through watering the family tree? Do they cook, or garden?

'Ancestors in the Attic' by Michael Holroyd

‘Ancestors in the Attic’ by Michael Holroyd.

Let us share some ideas with you that might help. If you are buying for a family historian, there are options for practical or inspirational gifts depending on the person. The useful present would either be A Dictionary of Family History, an essential companion full of helpful terms and definitions, handy websites and addresses, or My Family History, a book that will help you arrange up to ten generations of family history data according to matriarchal or patriarchal lines. If you are feeling generous Tim Cochin has just produced a detailed Parish Atlas of England which carefully reproduces the early ordnance survey maps to create an essential guide for those tracing ancestral footsteps.

They may however like to garner inspiration from what others have done or just enjoy the ride along someone else’s family journey. Leading biographer Michael Holroyd has looked closer to home than usual and examined the stories in his own family with his new book just out called Ancestors in the Attic. These two slim volumes presented in a slipcase examine the stories of his great-grandmother Anne Eliza and aunt Yolande. Both were collectors and Anne Eliza’s beautiful hand-stitched ferns and Yolande’s pictures of silent movie stars provide pictorial frames to the stories of these intriguing women.

Or, if they have all the books they need, why not some pretty silver earrings with a family tree design? We also have a gorgeous tote bag in robust canvas trimmed in genuine leather strong enough to take the laptop and all those notes. The front of the bag has an attractive tree design making this an ideal gift for the genealogist.

If your list includes a military historian, then we can certainly help. To commemorate the centenary of the First World War, we have a juggernaut of books – but how to choose? Maybe Esmond: The Lost Idol? This book uses the diaries and letters of Esmond Elliot, younger son of the Earl of Minto, and his family to tell the story of a young soldier killed at the beginning of the Passchendaele offensive. It is a moving account based on the papers kept by his heartbroken mother and including Edmond’s photographs from the front. Or perhaps you would like to gift someone a fiendishly difficult jigsaw? This 1000-piece puzzle is based on a trench map from The National Archives collection showing where the battalions of infantry were on the Somme on 1 July 1916.

The front cover of 'Tales from the Captain's Log' book

‘Tales from the Captain’s Log’, published by Bloomsbury and The National Archives

Maybe your list includes someone who fancies themselves as an explorer? How about a copy of Tales from the Captain’s Log, a beautifully-illustrated compilation that draws upon original documents held here in the archives? There are chapters on James Cook’s journeys to the South Pacific and the Battle of the Nile alongside some truly gruesome ship’s surgeons’ drawings of disease. Hang an Age of Exploration globe on your tree, an intricately detailed antique globe showing lands from past times. Londoners might enjoy Crutchley’s Twelve Miles Round London, an example of an early Georgian travelling map from 1846 painstakingly reproduced on canvas. The map stretches from Southall to Dagenham and Waltham to Croyden marking the principle gentlemens’ seats (so handy if you planning on dropping in for tea).

If you know a keen quizzer, someone who knocks off a newspaper crossword before breakfast and listens with eager anticipation for Radio 4’s daily puzzle, the perfect gift would be a copy of Bletchley Park Brain Teasers by Sinclair Mackay. The various ingenious mind games devised by the Bletchley Park recruiters are just what they need to work off the lethargy from Christmas lunch.

Relax and get yourself in the Yuletide mood by dipping into Mr Dickens and his Carol, Samantha Silva’s charming novel about the creation of the quintessential Christmas story. And pick up a set of our new notelets featuring designs from a range of historical maps held here – handy for writing those post-Christmas thank you notes.

We have lots of other ideas too – just visit The National Archives Shop and look at our Christmas selection. You will have to eventually – why not save time and do it now!

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