London: Bickers and Son, 1897. Later edition. Small quarto (8 1/8 inches tall), contemporary full tree-calf gilt, marbled endpapers, all edges red. Bookplate. About-fine. Item #621
"SUN OF MY SOUL, THOU SAVIOUR DEAR / IT IS NOT NIGHT IF THOU BE NEAR" Late Victorian edition of John Keble's poetic meditations on the Book of Common Prayer, in a splendid school prize-binding by Bickers and Son. The Christian Year follows the liturgical calendar of the English Church, "with its poems built around the festivals and fasts and services of the Book of Common Prayer" (Geoffrey Rowell, The Vision Glorious). Keble began writing poems on the Sundays of the English calendar as early as 1819. "Keble intended his verses not for the congregation but for the soul at his bedside" (Owen Chadwick) so he was ambivalent about their value and the book was first published anonymously in June 1827. "Keble's method was to build on a text from one of the readings of the day and draw out the symbolism both of Scripture and the natural order." (Rowell). The initial success of the book was puzzling to Keble as he still thought the poem were overrated. "Newman, not yet intimate with Keble, leaped far more quickly into praise. He instantly thought the poems quite exquisite." (Owen Chadwick). A year later, Newman came to stay with the Keble family in the summer of 1828, a pivotal moment in his own spiritual journey.
The Christian Year was immensely and broadly popular, published in dozens of editions and selling hundreds of thousands of copies throughout the Victorian era. "The expressions of a romantic age here entered Christian devotion, and the evangelical love of hymnody began to pass into the affections of more traditional English churchmen." The work brought about a new appreciation for the symbol and imagery of the Prayer Book and "the devout among the Anglican middle classes came to value it as dissenters valued Pilgrim's Progress" (Chadwick). This edition was printed with a decorated title-page, with text set within a red-ruled frame, and decorated throughout with head-and-tailpieces. The tree-calf-leather binding with a gilt vignette ("In Christo Fratres") in the center of the front board is accompanied by a prize-bookplate accomplished by hand in 1915. The text is preceded by an "Advertisement," for the first edition, dated May 30th, 1827. Rowell, The Vision Glorious: Themes and Personalities of the Catholic Revival in Anglicanism. Owen Chadwick, The Victorian Church.