NEW YORK — It’s a touching tale of hope and goodwill, of believing in something overwhelmingly good. It takes place in New York 54 years ago, but it’s as meaningful today as it was then.
Now “Miracle on 34th Street” has been reproduced in a handsome facsimile of the original 1947 book by Harcourt Inc. The small, hardcover edition, measuring 7 3/4 inches by 5 inches, has been faithfully copied down to the original typeface — positioning and spacing of all the words re-created line for line.
“Miracle on 34th Street” is the classic Christmas story of Kris Kringle, a gentle, white-bearded gentleman hired by Macy’s as its store Santa. He convinces a doubting 6-year-old, Susan Walker, and a New York court that he is the real Santa Claus.
The book enchanted a postwar America, as did the movie, starring Edmund Gwenn as Santa and a young Natalie Wood as the little girl he helps.
Anna Burgard, director of product development at Harcourt, decided to re-create the original book because, she said, “I realized how relevant the story still was.
“It takes place in the 1940s, but Kris Kringle talks about his disappointment over the commercialism of Christmas. It’s about a single mother raising a child in her own trust system, which was not believing ... in fairy tales, being practical and sensible to the extreme, of not playing, having no imagination.
“All that is part of OUR world,” Burgard said. “The book, while nostalgic, is modern.”
And after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, Burgard said she felt the simple tale could be “healing in a non-preachy way.
“The thread of the story is that one person’s goodwill can still make a tremendous impact,” she said.
Written originally as a screenplay by Valentine Davies, the book and film by the same name were released simultaneously in 1947. The book was an instant best seller and the movie won three Academy Awards for Davies, Gwenn and director George Seaton.
The reproduction of the book was painstakingly detailed. Custom inks were made to match the original jacket colors of red, green and brown, and the paper was selected to match the stock of the original. The hot-metal typeface was matched with digital versions, and a number of characters that could not be found in modern fonts were custom created.
Even minor inconsistencies, grammatical errors and other nuances found in the 1947 version were left unchanged in the new edition.
One minor alteration was added. Davies was never happy with the typeface used in the first printing of the book for Susan’s handwriting in a letter to Santa Claus. He felt the script was too mature for a young child, and a new typeface was created for the second printing of the first edition. That version is used in the new reproduction.
The facsimile also includes some features not found in the original: a historical note describing the development of the book and film, and a photograph and brief biography of Davies.
The book retails for $12.95.