Books: The Wishing Book

1897 SEARS ROEBUCK CATALOGUE; introductions by S. J. Perelman and Richard Rovere. 786 pages. Chelsea House. $14.95.

Any archaeologist knows that nothing gives a better picture of how vanished civilizations lived, loved and fought than the utensils, ornaments and weapons that were left behind in successive layers of kitchen midden. For this reason alone, this hardback facsimile of an 1897 Sears Roebuck catalogue is a dazzling trove for students of Americana. It certainly is one of the happiest publishing ideas in years.

Back in the days when two stuffed turtledoves under glass decorated...