Glimpses of Girton: Christmas in Girton College Library's Gamble Collection

The Gamble Collection is one of the Library’s Special Collections. At its core are the books that were donated to the College as part of a generous  bequest by Jane Catherine Gamble in 1885. She had no official connection to Girton but her name will be familiar to many Girtonians from the fireplace that now stands in front of the Porter’s Lodge, and bears the inscription: ‘the fund for the erection of this portion of the building was provided by the munificence of Jane Catherine Gamble.’ She is also remembered by the Gamble Prize, which was set up in 1888 and continues to be awarded to students every year [1] and will feature shortly in a “Glimpses of Girton” article in her own right.

The books that she left the College provide a fascinating insight into the types of everyday books read by a woman in the late nineteenth century. But the Gamble Collection has blossomed over the years with additions of books from many donors and on many subjects – including Christmas!

One example is a beautiful edition of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol in Prose with illustrations by Harold Copping (1863-1932), which was published around the year 1920 [2]. It contains a series of colour and black-and-white pictures which bring the story to life and was part of the bequest of Dr Jean Lindsay (McLachlan, 1929), Fellow of Girton 1946-1960, over a century after Jane Catherine Gamble’s.

Title page Title page
Ebenezer Scrooge, facing page 154

Illustration of Ebenezer Scrooge, facing page 154

Illustration of Bob Cratchit and Ebenezer Scrooge, page 169 Illustration of Bob Cratchit and Ebenezer Scrooge, page 169

There are several editions of Aunt Judy’s Christmas, a special annual issue of Aunt Judy’s magazine for children, published monthly between 1866 and 1885.  The Gamble collection includes several volumes spanning the years 1868 to 1881, all donated in 1948 by Miss M.A.B. Attlee, the sister of the then Prime Minister and a friend of former Girton student and Fellow, Mary Clover (Girton, 1898). The volume for 1874 [3], edited by Mrs. A. Gatty (London, 1874) includes this lovely picture of a Christmas dinner by W. H. Petherick, illustrating Alfred Scott Gatty’s story, ‘A Christmas dinner: an extravaganza in three scenes’.

IllustrationI Illustration from Aunt Judy's Christmas Volume for 1874

Peter Parley’s Annual for 1865: a Christmas and New Year's Present for Young People, published by Darton and Clark in London in 1865, is also now part of the Gamble Collection [4], although it was for a while housed in the Stanley Library.  It is filled with stories and illustrations, described in a review in The Spectator in 1864 as ‘a pleasant volume profusely illustrated with wood-cuts and coloured prints, showy if not very refined.’ [5] The wood-cuts are in fact rather exquisite and rich with detail, showing the world as seen by a child in the nineteenth century.

Title page Title page
Illustration of the month of December Illustration of the month of December

Published: 18 December 2017



[1] Susan Bain, ‘Tower Wing and Jane Catherine Gamble’, Girton College Annual Review (2009), p. 28

[2] Gamble collection 826.1 D55

[3] Gamble collection 829.96 G22

[4] Gamble collection 826 P44

[5] ‘Review of Peter Parley's Annual for 1865: a Christmas and New Year's Present for Young People’ in The Spectator (26 November 1864), p. 23-4, available online on The Spectator Archive at: (accessed December 2017).