These books were works of art as much as they were literary collections, romantic both in content and design. The annuals, some bound in gold-stamped leather, encouraged the contributions of well-known and lesser-known authors as well as embellishments provided by American artists and engravers. The gift books provided a testing ground for untried authors as well as a substantial representation of works by better-known contributors, including:
- American authors Edgar A. Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, James Russell Lowell, Oliver Wendell Holmes, John Greenleaf Whittier, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Ralph Waldo Emerson, James Fenimore Cooper, William Cullen Bryant and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
- British writers William Wordsworth, John Keats, William Shakespeare, John Milton, and Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning
- European authors Jean Paul Richter, Alexander Dumas and Heinrich Zschokke (translated)
- Engravers Seth Willis Cheney, John Neagle and Sartain
Part One reproduces the title page, publishing information, table of contents and list of illustrations with painters and engravers for each of Thompson's major entries, arranged in alphabetical order.
Part Two contains indices for editors, publishers, cities and states of publication, stereotypes, printers, titles of poems and stories, authors, titles of illustrations, painters and engravers. The order of the indices follows the order of the information found in the entries in Part One.