Monthly Archives: December 2015

Christmas Illustrated

Special Collections holds bound volumes of the Illustrated London News, which was published from 1842 to 2003. A contributor to the paper’s huge success, and a big part of its enduring charm, lies in the lavish illustrations. The early issues featured numerous wood engravings, and photographs were added from the 1890s onwards, forming a visual record of all the topics of interest of the day.

During the nineteenth century the paper began adding a special Christmas supplement, with varied content including poetry, stories, and articles concerning Christmas celebrations in different times and places. These supplements were enhanced by full-page illustrations on a range of topics.

Engraving of man and child under mistletoe

Detail from “Under the Mistletoe”, December 19 1863.


Engraving of procession "Bringing in the boar's head",

Detail from “Bringing in the boar’s head”, from December 26 1846.

The tradition of a Christmas pageant and procession involving a boar’s head is thought to have been popularised following its use in Oxford, and over time expanded to include a wide range of festive characters, acting, and singing. The boar’s head carol is still sung in many places including Queen’s College Oxford.

Many of the covers of the London Illustrated News Christmas supplements can be seen via