Readers of this blog will surely agree that few things in life go together better than Christmas and reading a good book. And, while there can be nothing held against anyone who chooses otherwise, Christmas is surely the appropriate time to find yourself reading a good book about Christmas.
A quick search of our library catalogue reveals that our Information and Research library holds around eighty titles relating to Christmas, mainly older books that are out-of-print or hard-to-find. So, in the spirit of the festive season, let’s have a look at a few of the best titles; most of these are available for you to take home and sit with by a crackling fire – book in one hand, mulled wine or mince-pie in the other.
The obvious place to start would be with the Christmas stories of Charles Dickens. The library holds several collections of these short tales, the most interesting of which is an 1876 edition with contemporary illustrations by Sir Edwin Landseer – the English painter and sculptor best known for the Trafalgar Square Lions.
Other Christmas fiction available includes the stories of Anthony Trollope and the Father Christmas letters written by J.R.R. Tolkien. Other titles include A Book of Christmas Verse, published around one-hundred years ago, and a beautifully-illustrated volume entitled Christmas with the Poets; this latter book contains verse from the Anglo-Norman period through to 1872 and is illustrated by Birket Foster.
Two anthologies of Christmas miscellany – containing stories, pictures, poems and more – are available from the Local and Family History library: A Treasury of Christmas and The Victorian Christmas Book.
The Victorian Christmas is perhaps the quintessential English image of the festive season; J.A.R. Pimlott’s The Englishman’s Christmas: A Social History explores this history in more detail. The global spread of Christmas can be traced through volumes such as Michael Harrison’s The Story of Christmas and Christmas: In Ritual and Tradition, Christian and Pagan (Clement Miles); while Christmas Customs around the World describes exactly that. The Twelve Days of Christmas sees authors Miles and John Hadfield illuminating the relationships between pagan celebrations linked to the winter solstice and later Christian customs. Finally, the story of how a 4th-century Greek Saint gradually mutated into the lovable figure of Santa Claus (or, Sinterklaas) is told in S.R. Littlewood’s 1912 book for children (of all ages).
Remember – all these titles are available to loan from our Local and Family History department or place a reservation at your local branch library.