A Desirable Gift Book

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In 1857 UVM graduate (1839, 1845) Rev. John Henry Hopkins, Jr. wrote a hymn that became a beloved Christmas carol. Some accounts say he wrote “The Three Kings of Orient” (now known as “We Three Kings of Orient Are”) for a Christmas pageant at the General Theological Seminary, while others say he wrote it for his nieces and nephews in Burlington, Vermont, where his father was the Episcopalian bishop. He included it in his 1863 collection, Carols, Hymns, and Songs, and in 1865 it was issued as an illustrated seasonal gift book.

An advertisement for the gift book that ran in the December 12, 1865 issue of the Baltimore Daily Commercial noted that “each page was printed in oil colors from exquisite designs” and was available in “extra cloth gilt” for $5.00 or “morocco, gilt or antique,” for $8.00. The ad included a description from the Christian Intelligencer, “This famous carol is richly embellished by colored lithographs, six in number, representing the adoration of the Babe of Bethlehem …. The designs are good and the execution admirable,” making it “a desirable book for Christmas.”

kings-0001A search of the Burlington Weekly Free Press, Hopkins’ hometown paper, found that a local bookseller offered Three Kings of Orient for Christmas giving in 1866. Our copy was given to a Kitty Thompson by her Uncle Frank for Christmas in 1870.

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