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“A Visit From St. Nicholas” - great association copy inscribed by Clement C. Moore
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“‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house/Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse/The stockings were hung by the chimney with care/In hope that St. Nicholas soon would be there…”

A legendarily scarce volume with a distinguished provenance.

CLEMENT C. MOORE. Signed book, Poems. New York: Bartlett & Welford, 1844. First edition, including A Visit from St. Nicholas, better known as ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas. Inscribed by Moore on the half-title page to Janet Drake de Kay: “Mrs. De Kay with the respects of the author, Mar. 1846.” Original brown boards, recent rebacked spine and paper spine label; minor rubbing to the extremities. With Janet’s daughter Helen de Kay’s ownership signature on the front endpaper above her husband Richard Watson Gilder’s library bookplate.

Inventory #23698       Price: $11,000

Historical Background

Janet Drake, through her distinguished poet-father Joseph Rodman Drake, gained admittance into the world of Knickerbocker writers such as Washington Irving, William Cullen Bryant, and Clement Moore. In 1833, Janet married Commodore George Coleman de Kay, perhaps best remembered for securing congressional support to take a government frigate to Ireland with famine relief supplies. Moore presented Janet with this copy of Poems in March 1846, around the time of the birth of her daughter Helena de Kay, who later penned her ownership signature in the volume. Helena became an accomplished artist and occasional model, and the unrequited love of the painter Winslow Homer. Helena helped found the Society of American Artists. She married Richard Watson Gilder, the editor of Century Magazine, whose library bookplate appears below Helena’s signature.

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas was first published in the Troy Sentinel newspaper on December 23, 1823. Moore’s authorship was first noted in 1837, in The New York Book of Poetry, edited by Charles Fenno Hoffman. Many years later, descendants of Henry Livingston, Jr. mistakenly convinced themselves that he was the author. As their case was disproven time and again, the family narrative kept evolving. In 2000, the Livingstonian arguments were marshaled by Professor Don Foster in a widely publicized book, Author Unknown. We are proud to have played a role in exposing many of Foster’s counter-factual arguments, and uncovering previously unpublished Moore writings, in the New-York Historical Society and the Museum of the City of New York, that fully support Moore’s authorship.

Seth Kaller’s essay, The Moore Things Change, was published in the Winter 2004 issue of the New-York Journal of American History. Much more can be found at https://www.sethkaller.com/about/educational/tnbc/

Clement C. Moore (1779-1863) was the son of Benjamin Moore, the second Protestant Episcopal Bishop of New York and President of King’s College. Clement Moore graduated from Columbia University in 1798. The Moore family owned extensive lands in the Chelsea neighborhood, on the Hudson, and it was Clement’s gift of some 60 acres of land in 1819 which made possible the establishment of the General Theological Seminary, where he himself taught Oriental languages, Biblical learning, and scripture interpretation from 1821 to 1850. An eminent lay theologian and scholar, Moore was the author of A Compendious Lexicon of the Hebrew Language, the first such work published in America. Moore lived not far from the new seminary (on present-day 23rd Street, between Eighth and Ninth Avenues).

Sources

Anne Lyon Haight, foreword to The Night Before Christmas, Exhibition Catalogue, Pittsburgh, 1964, p. xv.


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