Left: Etching, printed on laid japan paper, 4⅞ x 4⅝ inches (12.5 x 17.7 cm); sheet 11&frac78 x 8⅝ inches (29.9 x 21.8 cm); an early proof printed in the 1850s, in the second state (of five) before the reduction of the plate (Lister E4 ii/V). Right: Etching, printed printed on chine appliqué, 4⅞ x 4 inches (12.5 x 10.3 cm); sheet 13 x 11 ⅝ inches (33 x 39.5 cm);an early proof in the third state (of 've), before the lettering (Lister E4 iii/V). [Click on images to enlarge them.]

Commentary by Gordon Cooke

The four impressions of Christmas were printed over a period of 75 years during which his reputation grew. The first is an early printing, almost certainly by Gad and Keningdale and the second was probably printed on Palmer’s own press, set up in 1873. It was with Christmas that his son, A.H. Palmer, made his first attempts at retroussage, under instruction from Frederick Goulding, the finest printer of his time. Goulding probably printed the third impression, now with the engraved title added. The etching was not published in his lifetime, however, and there was no edition until it was included as the frontispiece in Samuel Palmer, A Memoir by A.H. Palmer, 1882, published by The Fine Art Society. The fourth impression is from the edition printed by Frank Short, Martin Hardie and Frederick Griggs and published by A.J. Finberg at the Cotswold Gallery, 59 Frith Street, Soho Square in November 1926. In one of his letters, A.H. Palmer wrote: ‘I consider that what the ‘Trio’ are doing amounts to the greatest honour ever bestowed on my father at any time by any persons. It is bestowed by three eminent, hard-worked men forming a coterie such as few painters ever had the good fortune to have as champions.’

Developing the theme expressed in The Skylark and The Herdsman’s Cottage, in Christmas Palmer has the challenge of combining the lamplight shining in the cottage and the moonlight from above, in a single image. As with many of the etchings by members of the Etching Club, which the artist had recently joined, it illustrates a poem, in this case a sonnet by John Codrington Bampfylde (1754–1796):

Old Christmas comes, to close the waned year,
And ay the Shepherd’s heart to make right glad;
Who when his teeming flocks are homeward had
To blazing hearth repairs, and nut-brown beer,
And views, well-pleas’d, the ruddy prattlers dear
Hug the grey mongrel; meanwhile maid and lad
Squabble for roasted crab[apple]s.

Left: Etching, printed on laid japan paper, 4⅞ x 4 inches (12.5 x 10.3 cm); sheet 8 x 5½ inches (20 x 14 cm); a proof probably printed by Frederick Goulding, aside from the first published edition: in the fourth state (of five). Goulding printed from the lettered plate as early as 1877 and took further impressions on Japan for AHP circa 1905. (Lister E4 iv/V). Right: Etching, printed in black ink on laid paper, 4⅞ x 4 inches (12.4 x 10 cm); sheet 8¼ x6 inches (21 x 15.5 cm); initialled in pencil by the printers Frank Short, Martin Hardie and Frederick Griggs, lower left. From the edition of 75 printed in 1926 and published by the Cotswold Gallery(Lister E4 v/V). [Click on images to enlarge them.]


Cooke, Gordon. Samuel Palmer, His Friends, and Followers.Exhibition Catalogue. London: The Fine Art Society, 2012. No. 16.

The Fine Art Society, London, has most generously given its permission to use information, images, and text from its catalogues in the Victorian Web. This generosity has led to the creation of hundreds and hundreds of the site's most valuable documents on painting, drawing, sculpture, furniture, textiles, ceramics, glass, metalwork, and the people who created them. The copyright on text and images from their catalogues remains, of course, with the Fine Art Society.

Lister, Raymond. Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of Samuel Palmer. Cambridge, 1988. pp. pp. 247–48 E12 v/VII.

Last modified 26 May 2014