| The annual evolved by the mid-1830s until it was aimed almost exclusively at the female consumer. Editors sought material that would stimulate the middle-class female readers' interest in romance, the exotic, and ideal femininity. Women edited about forty percent of the annuals, and contributed almost half of the literary contributions of later annuals. The most prolific women writers in the annuals were Letitia Landon, Mary Howitt, Mary Russell Mitford, and Felicia Hemans. The moral tone of society was changing during these three decades. Ann Renier says the literary annuals satisfied the taste of the time, because the literary audience was largely composed of young women. With the rising standard of living, middle class daughters were primarily educated to attract suitors and the annual was a useful prop. They could rhapsodize over the poems and engravings, displaying their tastes and sensibilities (Renier 17). In a reading against the grain, Ledbetter contends "The Keepsake literary annual also subversively undermined notions of middle-class propriety by exploring the fantasies of women who yearned to escape from restrictive middle-class mores" (Ledbetter 1).
Annuals for young women proved so popular that publishers initiated a series of annuals aimed at children. The contents and engravings of some of these juvenile annuals do not differ appreciably from the adult annuals, and publishers reprinted their previously published engravings to minimize costs. Other annuals appeared on such diverse subjects as botany, geography, history, fishing, and hunting. Faxon's Annuals and Gift Books, lists a total of 732 British annuals. Another compilation, Boyle's An Index to the Annuals, references items by their contributing authors from 222 British literary annuals. When we graph the number of British annuals from these two references over time, as shown in Figure 2-2, the resulting lines make arcs. A third intermediate line is shown from data in the Index. Beginning in 1823, publication of annuals climbs to a peak of 20 for the Index data compared to annuals of all types from Faxon, which reach a total of 59 per year in 1832. The Boyle data peaks at 16 because it has fewer annuals than the Index. In 1834, the overall number of annuals of all types published dropped from the peak of 59 suddenly to 36; however, literary annuals in the Index and Boyle data shows only a gradual drop in their number until the late 1840s. The reason for the abrupt downturn in annual publishing may have been a combination of market saturation and economic depression. The less pronounced decline of the literary annuals compared to all annuals might indicate greater customer loyalty. In the long run, Camilla (Toulmin) Crosland, an annual editor, says annuals fell from favor, not from deterioration of quality, but because the era of cheap literature was slowly advancing, and the publishers could not pay the authors and the engravers the high prices they demanded to compete with five-shilling Christmas books, which were in a very few years to be superseded by shilling holiday numbers of magazines (Crosland 95). For example, between 1832 and 1847 recorded sales of The Keepsake dropped from 7,078 to 1,587 copies per year. Yet, this annual did not cease publication until 1857 (Ledbetter 120).