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“The Night Before Christmas”:
First Separate Printing Crediting the Author
Click to enlarge:

CLEMENT CLARKE MOORE. “Christmas Carol. The Visit of Saint Nicholas. Written by Prof. C. C. Moore.” Broadside, text printed in blue with red border of ivy entwined branches. Philadelphia: Issued by John M. Wolff, Stationer [ca 1842-1865]. 11 x 17 ¼ in.

Inventory #23966       Price: $3,900

Historic Background

Clement C. Moore wrote ‘The Night Before Christmas for his family in 1822. A newspaper publisher who was given a copy (and didn’t learn who the author was until later) was the first to print it, anonymously, in the Troy Sentinel on December 23, 1823. Moore was first credited as the author in 1837, in The New York Book of Poetry, edited by Charles Fenno Hoffman. Moore did not publish it with his own Poems until 1844.  According to Nancy Marshall, who wrote the definitive bibliography, this is known as the first separately printed edition of the Night Before Christmas to credit the author. Philadelphia stationer John M. Wolff  issued this broadside as “A Merry Christmas and Happy New Year” greeting either in 1842 (according to cataloging in the University of Virginia, the Lilly Library, the Library of Congress, and Brown University, etc.), or 1851-65 (American Antiquarian Society; New-York Historical Society, the Free Library of Philadelphia, etc.). 

Many years later, descendants of Henry Livingston, Jr. mistakenly convinced themselves that their patriarch was “the real” author based on their memory of his reading a Christmas poems to the family. Their “evidence” was discredited time and again, so the family narrative continued to evolve. In 2000, the Livingstonian arguments were marshaled by Professor Don Foster in a widely publicized book, Author Unknown. Foster argued that Moore was a misogynistic child and noise hating grinch who stole the credit for Livingston’s work. Seth Kaller is proud to have played a role in exposing Foster’s demonstrably false arguments – in the process uncovering previously unpublished Moore writings that fully support Moore’s authorship. Kaller’s essay, The Moore Things Change, was published in the Winter 2004 issue of the New-York Journal of American History. 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, President of King’s College (Columbia University), and the owner of extensive property in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan, on the Hudson. Clement became an eminent philanthropist, lay theologian and scholar, publishing A Compendious Lexicon of the Hebrew Language and other books.  In 1819, he gave 60 acres for the establishment of the General Theological Seminary, where he taught Oriental languages, Biblical learning, and scripture interpretation from 1821 to 1850. He lived not far from the new seminary (on present-day 23rd Street, between Eighth and Ninth Avenues).

(Marshall, The Night Before Christmas: A Descriptive Bibliography)

While seventy copies were found and distributed for Christmas of 1932, very few are known to survive.  Only one is listed in major auction records of the last 40 years, selling in Jock Elliott’s definitive Christmas Collection auction at Sotheby’s, December 12, 2006, for $4,800. 

Condition

Fine, bottom margin with a few short tears repaired with tape on verso, a small repaired hole with loss of only less than 1 centimeter of the blue ruled border, and a horizontal tear closer to the top. 

References

BAL 14346 (note).  Grolier/Elliott 54.  Marshall 25.


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