52 Weeks of Inspiring Illustrations, Week 27: Robert Seymour’s “Book of Christmas” illustrations (1836)

The engraved title page of Hervey’s The book of Christmas, illustrated by Robert Seymour (St Andrews copy at s GT4895.H2).

A very merry Christmas to all of our readers! For this Christmas Eve illustration post we picked a lovely little book from the heart of Victorian London: Thomas Hervey’s The book of Christmas illustrated by Robert Seymour. This book was published at the height of the Victorian revival of the Christmas holiday, a tradition of holiday book releases which continues today! Hervey described the mid-19th century holiday publishing scene thusly in his preface:

“Amongst the number of elegant publications which issue from the press, at this festival period of the year, — and are prepared for the express amusement of this particular season, — it is matter of some surprise that no one of them should have undertaken to illustrate the festival itself, and give some account of the season which they are so designed to embellish.”

In his preface Hervey surely refers to his long tracts on the history of the holidays and why British people celebrated them the way that they do, however his mention of an undertaking to “illustrate the festival itself” is also helped in this book by Robert Seymour’s wonderful illustrative plates. Seymour began producing illustrations for books by the 1820s and by the 1830s was a good friend and in equal demand to George Cruikshank. Seymour’s final work was his illustrations for Charles Dickens’s The Pickwick Papers.

Seymour’s illustrations for Hervey’s The book of Christmas provide a lovely cross-section of holiday scenes from the 19th century: from the happy Christmas dinner scene to the grumpy (and probably hung-over) New Year’s Day well-wishers, from the Baronial hall to a riotous scene of St Distaff’s Day and scenes of Christmas markets and pantomimes. We’ve provided all of Seymour’s illustrations below and hope they bring some cheer to you this Christmas!

“Twelfth Night King” from The book of Christmas illustrated by Robert Seymour (St Andrews copy at St Andrews copy at s GT4895.H2).

“The misletoe bough” from The book of Christmas illustrated by Robert Seymour (St Andrews copy at St Andrews copy at s GT4895.H2).

“Merry Christmas to you!” & “Happy New Year!” from The book of Christmas illustrated by Robert Seymour (St Andrews copy at St Andrews copy at s GT4895.H2).

“Family congratulation” from The book of Christmas illustrated by Robert Seymour (St Andrews copy at St Andrews copy at s GT4895.H2).

“Old Christmas” from The book of Christmas illustrated by Robert Seymour (St Andrews copy at St Andrews copy at s GT4895.H2).

“The Lord of Misrule” from The book of Christmas illustrated by Robert Seymour (St Andrews copy at St Andrews copy at s GT4895.H2).

“Christmas and his children” from The book of Christmas illustrated by Robert Seymour (St Andrews copy at St Andrews copy at s GT4895.H2).

“Market – Christmas Eve” from The book of Christmas illustrated by Robert Seymour (St Andrews copy at St Andrews copy at s GT4895.H2).

“Christmas pantomime” from The book of Christmas illustrated by Robert Seymour (St Andrews copy at St Andrews copy at s GT4895.H2).

“Waits” from The book of Christmas illustrated by Robert Seymour (St Andrews copy at St Andrews copy at s GT4895.H2).

“Norfolk coach at Christmas” from The book of Christmas illustrated by Robert Seymour (St Andrews copy at St Andrews copy at s GT4895.H2).

“Twelfth Night in London streets” from The book of Christmas illustrated by Robert Seymour (St Andrews copy at St Andrews copy at s GT4895.H2).

“Coming home from school” from The book of Christmas illustrated by Robert Seymour (St Andrews copy at St Andrews copy at s GT4895.H2).

“Seeing in the New Year” from The book of Christmas illustrated by Robert Seymour (St Andrews copy at St Andrews copy at s GT4895.H2).

“Baronial hall” from The book of Christmas illustrated by Robert Seymour (St Andrews copy at St Andrews copy at s GT4895.H2).

“Mummers” from The book of Christmas illustrated by Robert Seymour (St Andrews copy at St Andrews copy at s GT4895.H2).

“Story telling” from The book of Christmas illustrated by Robert Seymour (St Andrews copy at St Andrews copy at s GT4895.H2).

“St Distaffs Day” from The book of Christmas illustrated by Robert Seymour (St Andrews copy at St Andrews copy at s GT4895.H2).

“Returning to school” from The book of Christmas illustrated by Robert Seymour (St Andrews copy at St Andrews copy at s GT4895.H2).

“Gate of the ‘Old English Gentleman'” from The book of Christmas illustrated by Robert Seymour (St Andrews copy at St Andrews copy at s GT4895.H2).

“Twelfth Night” from The book of Christmas illustrated by Robert Seymour (St Andrews copy at St Andrews copy at s GT4895.H2).

“Christmas dinner” from The book of Christmas illustrated by Robert Seymour (St Andrews copy at St Andrews copy at s GT4895.H2).

“Bringing in the boar’s head” from The book of Christmas illustrated by Robert Seymour (St Andrews copy at St Andrews copy at s GT4895.H2).

“Boxing Day” from The book of Christmas illustrated by Robert Seymour (St Andrews copy at St Andrews copy at s GT4895.H2).

“Country church – Christmas morning” from The book of Christmas illustrated by Robert Seymour (St Andrews copy at St Andrews copy at s GT4895.H2).

“St Thomas’s Day” from The book of Christmas illustrated by Robert Seymour (St Andrews copy at St Andrews copy at s GT4895.H2).

“Snap dragon” from The book of Christmas illustrated by Robert Seymour (St Andrews copy at St Andrews copy at s GT4895.H2).

“Christmas pudding” from The book of Christmas illustrated by Robert Seymour (St Andrews copy at St Andrews copy at s GT4895.H2).

“Enjoying Christmas” from The book of Christmas illustrated by Robert Seymour (St Andrews copy at St Andrews copy at s GT4895.H2).

“Wassail bowl” from The book of Christmas illustrated by Robert Seymour (St Andrews copy at St Andrews copy at s GT4895.H2).

“London carol singers” from The book of Christmas illustrated by Robert Seymour (St Andrews copy at St Andrews copy at s GT4895.H2).

“Country carol singers” from The book of Christmas illustrated by Robert Seymour (St Andrews copy at St Andrews copy at s GT4895.H2).

“Bringing home Christmas” from The book of Christmas illustrated by Robert Seymour (St Andrews copy at St Andrews copy at s GT4895.H2).

“Heads of the family” from The book of Christmas illustrated by Robert Seymour (St Andrews copy at St Andrews copy at s GT4895.H2).

A very happy holidays from the Special Collections team at the University of St Andrews Library!

DG

5 responses to “52 Weeks of Inspiring Illustrations, Week 27: Robert Seymour’s “Book of Christmas” illustrations (1836)

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  3. It is brilliant that you have posted all of Robert Seymour’s illustrations for The Book of Christmas. Well done!

    I actually saw the post some time ago, and I made a note to contact you in 2015. You see, I have actually written a novel in which Robert Seymour is the main character. The novel is called Death and Mr Pickwick, and it will be published in May 2015 by Jonathan Cape of the Random House Group (in the UK) and in June 2015 by Farrar, Straus & Giroux (in the USA). Thomas Hervey appears as a character, and some of the pictures from The Book of Christmas get special mentions. Further information can be found at:
    http://www.deathandmrpickwick.com
    Best wishes
    Stephen Jarvis

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