Lakeside Classics is a series printed annually at Christmas-time by commercial printer RR Donnelley. The tradition began in 1903 by Thomas E. Donnelley, son of the founder and president of the company at the time. While the basic book format has remained essentially the same since inception — hardcover, cloth wrapped and gold embossed, the cover material and type style are adjusted every 25 years in order to stay current with development in fine bookmaking. Other production methods are updated as manufacturing improvements are introduced.
The subject matter of Lakeside Classics tends to cover elements of American history, with many of the early volumes consisting of speeches and writings for noted Americans. As much, the first three Lakeside Classics were The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin (1903), Inaugural Addresses of the Presidents of the United States from Washington to Lincoln (1904), and Inaugural Addresses of the Presidents of the United States from A. Johnson to T. Roosevelt (1905).
Lakeside Classics are only made available to RR Donnelley employees, clients, and others associated with the company. The week before Christmas, each employee is given one copy of that year's volume. The Lakeside Classics are never sold by the company, but some have found their way into the rare book market. Thus, because of their extremely limited distribution, Lakeside Classics are a true collector’s gem.
All Lakeside Classics are considered to be first editions.