Friday, November 2, 2012

Constant Curiosity | Wish Books

When I was little, maybe 7 or 8, I liked nothing better than to lie on the living room floor in a sunny spot and pore through the Walter Drake catalog.  We lived way out in the country and the nearest small town was nine miles away, so a wish book opened a whole world of amazing stuff unknown to my young self.  No money was no problem; dreaming was enough. 

I like the self-contained nature of catalogs; shiny paper cabinets of curiosities; treasures yet to be discovered.   The delicious anticipation when a new one comes...sit down, have a cookie and a cup of tea and just turn the pages.  Like being in the best kind of bubble.  Who needs Calgon?

One of my all time favorites is The Metropolitan Museum of Art catalog.  It's not the same as visiting the museum, but imagining the exhibits that inspired the beautiful objects contained within can be very diverting. 

If you sign up for a Harrods catalog, the form has a nice list of titles: Prince, Princess, Viscount, Viscountess, Wing Commander, His Royal Highness, Her Royal Highness, etc. in a pull-down menu for your convenience.

Fortnum and Mason, famous purveyors of hampers full of goodies for Christmas and other occasions, doesn't offer a catalog, but one can subscribe to their various magazines (online only, alas.)

As with Fortnum and Mason, the Internet has rendered catalogs somewhat redundant, even though, according to the National Mail Order Assn., some 20 billion catalogs are mailed each year (at least a million end up at my house.)  Ease of ordering and all; instant gratification takes too long.

That's not really what a wish book is for, at least in my view; the sentimental name sort of says it all--you can wish for something you never knew existed and never knew you could want or need.   You can let your imagination fly to parts unknown or to well-remembered places:  journeying via catalog can be a great way to armchair travel.


  1. What a beautiful post. As I read it, I recalled my youth and the anticipation which my siblings and I shared over those mail order catalogs. In our house, it was the Blue Chip Catalog! Thank you for the trip down memory lane!

    1. Oh, the Blue Chip catalog! And Green Stamps. So many memories--thanks for the nice words...