Publishing Milestones

The Nineteenth century publication history of A Visit from St. Nicholas includes most of the important “firsts” in its illustration history as well. This table in Nancy H. Marshall’s The Night Before Christmas: A Descriptive Bibliography of Clement Clarke Moore’s Immortal Poem provides a guide to these important events in the early life of the poem.

Dec 24,1822 Moore writes the poem and reads it to his six children on Christmas Eve
Dec 23, 1823 First known publication in the Troy (New York) Sentinel; editor titles poem Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas
1825 First appearance in an almanac; New Brunswick (New Jersey) Almanack, for the Year of Our Lord 1825
circa 1830 First known illustration connected with the poem; woodcut by Myron King in the Troy (New York) Sentinel newspaper carrier’s holiday broadside
1830 First abridgment in John F. Watson’s Annals of Philadelphia
1832 First use of “Merry Christmas . . . ” in place of Moore’s original “Happy Christmas . . . ” in the Schenectady (New York) Whig
1837 First publication and first full-length book identifying Clement Clarke Moore as the author; The New-York Book of Poetry, edited by Charles Fenno Hoffman
1840 Second known illustration for the poem; an engraving by William Croome in The Poets of America, edited by John Keese
1840 First significant literary recognition; by William Cullen Bryant in Selections from the American Poets
circa 1842 First separately printed copy of the poem under Moore’s name: a broadside issued by John H. Wolff, Stationer, Philadelphia, as a “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year” greeting
1844 First public acknowledgment by Moore of authorship; anthology of his poetry entitled Poems
1848 First separately published book; by Henry M. Onderdonk, illustrated with engravings by Theodore C. Boyd
Dec 1848 Addendum:  First known foreign publication, in the Canadian juvenile series The Snow Drop, Vol. II, No. 9; “Merry Christmas . . .” is substituted for the original “Happy Christmas . . .
1851 First use of The Night Before Christmas as a subtitle; in American Magazine: Gems of Modern American Literature, published by W. S. Johnson, London
August 1853 Earliest extant holograph manuscript copy written by Moore; purchased at auction in 1977 and owned by The Strong Museum, Rochester, New York
1855 First illustrations in color; a hand-illuminated manuscript by Moore’s married daughter, Mary Clarke Moore Ogden
circa 1858 First separately published edition to use the title The Night Before Christmas; in conjunction with St. Nicholas and Kriss Kringle’s Visit, published by Willis P. Hazard and illustrated by “Nick”
1862 Other than in the 1832 newspaper, first change in a US publication from “Happy Christmas . . . ” to “Merry Christmas . . . “; in a James G. Gregory edition illustrated by Felix Octavius Carr Darley
1863 First pen and ink drawings of St. Nick by Thomas Nast, illustrator and political cartoonist; for an 1863-1864 James Gregory anthology edition, Christmas Poems and Pictures . . . Relating to the Festival of Christmas
circa 1863 First edition to use the title The Night Before Christmas by itself; published by Peter G. Thomson and illustrated by B. Geyser
1864 First card edition, in accordion-fold format, by Louis Prang Company (Boston); ten years later, Prang introduced the Christmas card to America
1869 First card edition, in accordion-fold format, by Louis Prang Company (Boston); ten years later, Prang introduced the Christmas card to America
circa 1898 First foreign publication by Raphael Tuck in Great Britain in his Father Tuck’s Nursery Tales Series
circa 1890s Addendum:  First separately published foreign editions by S. Hildesheimer (Germany, illustrations by E. F. Manning) and Raphael Tuck (Great Britain) in Father Tuck’s Nursery Tales Series