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The Boar’s Head in Hand Bring I


No, I’m NOT referring to the deli meat company. It’s the Boar’s Head Carol that’s on my mind. This traditional English holiday song, which celebrates the arrival at the feast of a greenery-garlanded boar’s head, has been sung for over 500 years. And it is still being sung today, even though my colleagues denied ever having heard it before. (They have since been subjected to a few versions on YouTube.)


The lyrics to this carol have been collected both in manuscript and in print formats for over five centuries, and one recent version, held in NYPL's Rare Book Division, was created in 1914 by a printer named Charles Clinch Bubb. Bubb compiled and printed his Garland of the Eight Boar’s Head Carols of Olden Time Surviving as a holiday memento for members of a Cleveland-based bibliophiles group called the Rowfant Club. Bubb’s little book includes early printer Wynkyn de Worde’s 1521 version of the lyrics:

Hungry for more early English carols? The Library’s got plenty of sources, including Christmas Carols from Around the World, The Daily Telegraph Book of Carols, 170 Christmas Songs and Carols, An Old English Christmas, and more. I first heard the Boar's Head Carol on a recording called The Christmas Revels, and the Library has it and more by this same organization as well.   


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