Five Rare Books for Collectors: Christmas

Bernard Quaritch

Large metalcut block of Father Christmas operating a printing press, perhaps from the second half of the 20th century. Likely never used.

Highlights from Bernard Quaritch’s latest New Acquisitions catalogue and Bibles, Liturgy, Faith catalogue include:

* Collection of noëls. France (Verneuil-sur-Avre, Normandy), c. 1596 and later. An exceptional and extensive late 16th-century manuscript of French Advent and Christmas carols, each carol introduced by an elaborate painted initial and many with a melody added to the facing page in a near-contemporary hand.

* An album of Christmas calligraphy by John Smith, Christmas, 1802. A charming Christmas calligraphy album setting quotations by William Shenstone, Thomas Paine (‘Nobility is to be considered only as an imaginary distinction, unless accompanied with the practice of those generous virtues by which it ought to be obtained ...’), Axel Oxenstiern (‘Un homme sage ne méprise lo conseil de personne ...’), and one unidentified, with a final leaf curiously repeating the word ‘Semidiameter’, perhaps as a demonstration of consistency. It is not clear if this was an exercise, a gift, or a piece of promotional work, but the hand is competent.

* Officium recitandum in nocte nativitatis Domini cum tribus Missis ejusdem solemnitatis. Venice, Andrea Poletti, 1738. Rare office for celebrating Christmas Day, printed at Venice by Andrea Poletti (1675–1750), this copy in an exceptional binding.
Opening with the words ‘Christus natus est nobis, venite adoremus’, the text provides hymns, Psalms, antiphons, readings and prayers for Matins and Lauds, and for three Masses to be celebrated during the night of Christmas Eve, at dawn on Christmas Day, and during Christmas Day. No copies traced in the UK or US.

* The True Hero and Other Poems by Alexander Laing. Glasgow, Morison Brothers, 1893. Many works have a decided political bent. A ‘Trilogy on the extension of the franchise, 1886’ is written in the voices of the Commons, the Lords, and the People. In ‘Father Christmas Turns Socialist’, Laing attacks trickle-down economics – ‘these droppings through a sieve / From purse-proud upper classes’ – and the volume closes with an ‘Ode to Socialism’.

* Neueröffnete Himmels-Schule... by Martialis Keller. Augsburg, Matthäus Riegers, 1793. Rare later edition of this educational and devotional work by the Bavarian Benedictine Martialis Keller, containing prayers, exercises and points of doctrine, and illustrated with attractive engravings, this copy in a contemporary local binding. Divided into twelve parts, the Newly-opened School of Heaven provides the reader with morning and evening prayers; prayers for Mass and Communion; prayers to the Blessed Sacrament, the Trinity, Christ, the Virgin Mary, Joseph, and numerous saints; and prayers for Advent, Christmas, New Year, Lent, Easter, and Pentecost, as well as for ‘the consolation of poor souls in Purgatory’. No copies traced in the UK or US.