Advent and After: 14. Christmas Angel

Tales by Hans Christian Andersen (1872)

Traditionally during Christmas angels were placed upon the top of a Christmas tree to represent the heavenly host, this was a custom which began in the Upper Rhineland during the 18th Century, and was introduced to the United Kingdom by Prince Albert.  The Angel in the picture was illustrated by Eleanor Vere Boyle, one of the most famous female artists of the 1860’s.  She was the first British artist to illustrate the stories of Hans Christian Andersen, and set a standard for all other Andersen illustrations.  As a wife of an aristocrat (Richard Cavendish Boyle, the Earl of Cork), and a woman, she famously used her initials, rather than her full name to mask her identity.

Hans Christian Andersen wrote ‘The Angel’ about a dead child and an angel gathering flowers to carry to heaven in response to the death of the eldest daughter of his dearest friends – Edvard and Jette Collins in 1843.  ‘Fairy tales’ by Hans Christian Andersen is part of the Oldham Bequest acquired by the Library in 1973, which makes up a large section of the Children’s and Juvenile Collections.

image showing book spines on shelf