Carolling in the collections

Continuing with the festive theme from last week, and inspired by singing in a local choir, I thought I would see what I could find in our collections relating to Christmas carols.

I saw three ships woodcut

“I Saw Three Ships” designed by Henry Payne (MS 2717/3/1 page 22)

I was surprised to discover carol singing in many different parts of our archive.  The activity can be found in hospital, school, photographic and individual  collections,  as well as in religious records such as this draft copy of a book of Christmas Carols for the use of the Old Meeting Church.  We  also have  many traditional carols available to listen to as part of the recordings made by Charles Parker.

Black and white woodcut illustration with title of book surrounded by a woodcut of a stylised floral border

Title page for “A Book of Pictured Carols” (MS 2717/3/1 page 15)

One of the most beautiful objects I found was in the records of Joseph Wainwright and Colbran J. Wainwright, manufacturing jewellers. “A Book of Pictured Carols designed by members of the Birmingham Art School” (MS 2717/3/1) is a slim hardback book of carols and illustrations created under the direction of Arthur J.Gaskin. The intricate woodcuts were each created by different artists, both male and female, and are all in the Arts and Crafts style. Some have strong floral and folk motifs such as the title page designed by Georgie E. Cave France. Others are inspired by themes of myth and legend such as the design at the top of this page by Henry Payne.

Contains a black and white woodcut illustration of a Nativity scence showing Mary and Jesus with a cow in the background

“The Golden Harp” (375224, LP 07.2 GUE )

The Local Studies collection contains several volumes of carols printed in Birmingham. This is the cover of a tiny booklet of carols printed by J. Guest of Bull Street in about 1850. The pages are very thin, and it feels like it has been well used. The carols it contains are not the familiar ones that are popular today. They include intriguing titles such as Melodious Sound, Twinkling Stars and Twelve Points. They often refer to death and sin as well as to joyful celebrations.

It has been interesting having a glimpse into how traditions change over the years and I have enjoyed finding some new carols. I hope this brief taster may inspire you to come and see us next Christmas in our new home.

Perhaps a nice way  to end this post is with the last verse of The Moon Shines Bright printed in “The Golden Harp”

 My song is done- I must be gone,
I can stay no longer here:
God bless you all, both great and small,
And send you a happy new year!

 Kathryn Hall
(Libraries and Archives Assistant)


One response to “Carolling in the collections

  1. Pingback: Oh come all ye faithful, learn the words to traditional carols « just telling it as it is

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