Birmingham: Cornish Bros. 1895. First edition. Quarto (10 1/2 inches tall), original slate blue paper boards, uncut. Bookplate. Boards lightly toned, corners bumped, spine ends worn, minor abrasion to rear joint, plates fine. An excellent copy. Item #794
"THEREFORE, CHRISTIAN MEN, BE SURE / WEALTH OR RANK POSSESSING / YE WHO NOW WILL BLESS THE POOR / SHALL YOURSELVES FIND BLESSING" Scarce printing of the first illustrated edition of John Mason Neale's popular Christmas carol—featuring six fine woodcut plates by Arthur J. Gaskin—and an Introduction by William Morris. John Mason Neale was a proponent of the romance of Ritualism and a major contributor to the Catholic Revival of the nineteenth century. Dr. Neale's "capacity for translating the riches of the ancient and medieval hymnody gave him a significant role in the transformation of Anglican worship and in the communication of the patristic tradition and sacramental doctrine to ordinary congregations" (Geoffrey Rowell). Good King Wenceslas is based on the St. Stephen's Day legend of Duke Vaclav Wratislaw, the medieval patron of Bohemia. The carol first appeared in Carols for Christmas-Tide (1853) with lyrics by Neale and melody by Thomas Helmore. Neale's "skill as a translator of hymns showed itself particularly in his capacity to reproduce the rhythm and metre of the original so that the ancient plainsong melodies could be used for his English versions" (Rowell). Said to be one of only 125 copies printed by Gaskin (on one side only) at the Press of the Guild of Handicraft. The plates are preceded by a short Introduction by William Morris (dated, "September 1894") in praise of Gaskin's "beautiful pictures " and Neale's Ritualistic admiration of Medievalism: "The legend itself is pleasing and a genuine one, and the Christmas-like quality of it, recalling the times of my boyhood, appeals to me at least as a happy memory of past days." Geoffrey Rowell. The Vision Glorious: Themes and Personalities of the Catholic Revival in Anglicanism.