‘Twas the Night before Christmas

The Nancy H. Marshall “A Visit from St. Nicholas” Collection
December 6, 2016 to January 15, 2017
The Night Before Christmas, illustrated by Howard Finster
An American folk artist and minister, Howard Finster (1916-2001) blends his reinterpretation of Moore’s traditional verse with his own surrealist and outsider visions. Words from his preaching border each illustration.

Clement C. Moore. The Night Before
Illustrated by Howard Finster. Atlanta, GA: Turner Publishing Inc., 1996.

Most people today know Clement Clarke Moore’s enchanting tale of the mysterious Christmas Eve visitor, St. Nicholas.  A noted theologian and biblical scholar, Moore (1779-1863) wrote this classic poem, “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” in 1823.  Nancy H. Marshall started collecting editions of Moore’s poem, today better known as The Night before Christmas, over 45 years ago.

At first she bought inexpensive books to fill her children’s stockings and decorate her home during the Christmas holiday.  Over time, her collection became more comprehensive as she acquired both rare and early editions and contemporary twentieth-century publications.  After having spent more than a decade as the Dean of William & Mary Libraries, Marshall began donating her collection to Swem Library’s Special Collections Research Center in 2005.  Today, students, scholars, and visitors young and old enjoy the many treasures of the Nancy H. Marshall “A Visit from St. Nicholas” Collection.

Continuing our annual tradition of showcasing the books, this year’s graphic panel exhibit reflects on the enduring popularity of Moore’s poem through its visual and narrative structure.  Narratively simple yet visually imaginative, Moore’s poem entertains children as well as adults through its countless variations and imagery, making it a staple of the holiday season.


Images of the exhibit are available from Swem Library on Flickr.

Curation, exhibit design, and installation: Khanh Vo, Special Collections Graduate Apprentice and PhD Candidate in American Studies, with assistance from Jennie Davy, Burger Archives Specialist, and Jessica Molz, SCRC Graphics Student Assistant.