A Booke of Christmas Carols

Posted on 18th December 2019 by simonbeattie

Today we will take a break from our series of ‘first appearances’ of carols to bring you a delightful early Victorian gift book, with chromolithographed illuminations throughout: Joseph Cundall’s A Booke of Christmas Carols, illuminated from Ancient Manuscripts in the British Museum (London, Henry G. Bohn, 1845):

The title-page, featuring all manner of festive flora and fauna.

‘After Pickering, the publisher with the most devoted concern for book design in mid-nineteenth century England was Joseph Cundall.  His career is particularly hard to follow, since he worked a great deal on his own, as a sort of freelance behind the scenes, and many books which he edited and designed bear other publishers’ imprints …  Cundall’s first illuminated book seems to have been A Booke of Christmas Carols (n.d., 1845), with borders drawn and lithographed by John Brandard after illuminated MSS in the British Museum and printed by Hanhart’ (McLean, Victorian Book Design, p. 109).

The carols themselves include ‘When Christ was born of Mary free’, ‘The Boar’s Head Carol’ (reprinted from Wynkyn de Worde’s Christmasse Carolles newly emprynted, 1521), ‘God rest you merry gentlemen’, ‘Whilst shepherds watch’d’, and ‘Hark! the herald angels sing’.  As an added bonus, our copy was inscribed from a woman to (who we presume was) her friend for Christmas (‘Dorothea Burrell given to Henrietta Edith Burrell Xmas 1883’ on the front flyleaf):

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