The Hymns and Carols of Christmas does not necessarily endorse any advertisers. Please use appropriate caution.
Part 1. Collections of Carols
The collecting of carols – especially those with a folk background – picked up its pace in the late 19th and early 20th century. The Folk Song Society was founded on June 16, 1898; one of its first vice presidents was Sir John Stainer and one of the founders was Frank Kidson. Between 1898 and 1904, the Society issued five publications. Early notable members were Cecil James Sharp, Martin Shaw and Ralph Vaughan Williams. Up to December 1909, 13 ‘Journals’ were issued, each usually greater in length than its predecessor.
This organization merged in 1932 with the English Folk Dance Society (founded in 1911 by Cecil Sharp, who collected, among others, "The Somerset Carol," which was taught to Sharp around 1910 in Bridgewater, Somerset). The organization’s new name is the English Folk Dance and Song Society. The success of the English Folk Song Society spurred the creation of similar organizations in Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Canada, and the United States. One of many carols collected and printed by the Folk Song Society was "The Sussex Carol," traced to the mid-19th century streets of Dublin.
The early decades of the 20th century in England also saw the rise of denomination hymnals and the emergence of "mission" hymns.
In the United States, a significant – but largely unavailable – collection of carols was issued in 19 volumes from 1924 through 1947 by the Carol Society of New Haven, Connecticut, primarily under the editorship of Edward Bliss Reed. The series functionally ended with his death. In total, the Society printed 152 folk carols from many cultures, frequently eight carols per year (volume). Regrettably, only a limited number of volumes were printed; it is unknown if some kind soul has created a single volume containing all the carols of the series.
Probably the most notable published collection of carols of the early 20th century was The Oxford Book of Carols (OBC) in 1928 (revised in 1964), edited by Percy Dearmer, Ralph Vaughan Williams, and Martin Shaw. It was noted for its breadth of coverage, scholarship, and detailed, informative notes. It is still widely available.
Ralph Vaughan Williams, 1872-1958 
It's successor from the Oxford Press was The New Oxford Books of Carols (1992), edited by Hugh Keyte and Andrew Parrott which expanded the scope of the previous work by including selected hymns such as "Silent Night" which the OBC excluded on the grounds that they were not "carols." This volume, too, is noted for its scholarship and notes.
Two important predecessors were by Percy Dearmer and Martin Shaw: English Carol Book, 1913, and English Carol Book, Second Edition, 1919. Vaughan Williams and Shaw would collaborate again in 1954 with the publication of English Traditional Carols, Oxford University Press. In particular, Vaughan Williams  was an avid collector of English folk carols from 1903 and onwards, and made significant contributions to The Oxford Book of Carols in this area and well as others.
Another predecessor to this series might be The English Hymnal (1906) which was edited by Percy Dearmer and Ralph Vaughan Williams (with important contributions from Martin Shaw). This volume combined the best of plainsong, psalm tunes, and chorales in one volume.
A difficult to obtain collection is Rev. Charles L. Hutchins’  Carols Old and Carols New published in 1916 (Boston: Parish Choir). It was an enormous volume of 751 carols, about 63% if which were related to Christmas. It was (and is) the largest collection ever published in an English-speaking country . Regrettably, it was a limited publication of just 1,000 numbered and signed volumes, and was eclipsed when the Oxford Book of Carols was issued only a few years later. 
Sir Richard Runciman Terry  edited and published Two Hundred Folk Carols in 1933. Like the Routley collection (below), this was a hard-bound version based on a series of pamphlets. It contained an unusually broad selection of carols from different geographic areas. Unfortunately, it is difficult to obtain, but would be an immensely valuable addition to any collection. The original publisher was Burns, Oates & Washbourne of London . Other editions by Terry are Gilbert and Sandys’ Christmas Carols (London: Burns, Oates and Washbourne, date unknown) and A Medieval Carol Book (London: Burns, Oates and Washbourne, circa 1931).
Another important collection was published in 1935 by Richard Leighton Greene, The Early English Carol, which contained a total of 474 carols. In 1962, he edited A Selection of English Carols, that contained 100 specimens. He stated that the book "is in part an abridgement of the editor's collection published in 1935, The Early English Carols, and in part a presentation of new material." Neither volume limited itself to carols appropriate to the Christmas season, but included many other samples, including the passion, satirical carols, amorous carols, etc.
Eric Routley is editor of the University Carol Book: A Collection of Carols from Many Lands for All Seasons (London: H. Freeman & Co., 1961), an excellent collection containing more than half of the 217 carols printed in the pamphlet series of the same name, with a good deal of the balance from Terry (see above).
Elizabeth Poston published two collections of Christmas carols in her lifetime, The Penguin Book of Christmas Carols and The Second Penguin Book of Christmas Carols (New York and Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England: Penguin Books, 1965 and 1970, respectively). Both are sound collections, with excellent notes and sharply-worded opinions. The second collection limits itself to songs written in North America. Regrettably, neither is currently in print. The last book which she co-edited with Malcolm Williamson was published after her death: A Book of Christmas Carols (New York: Prentice Hall Press, 1988). Elizabeth Poston and David Holbrook co-edited The Cambridge Hymnal (Cambridge, Eng.: Cambridge University Press, 1967).
Henry W. Simon  edited A Treasury of Christmas Songs and Carols in 1973, which was hailed by observers both for its breadth of carols and for the meticulous notes accompanying the text.
A unique collection of early American carols is found in Glenn Willcox’s Early American Christmas Music (1995). It explores an area previously uncharted by most collectors.
More recently is an excellent collection by Ian Bradley, The Penguin Book of Carols (1999). Also by Bradley is the Penguin Book of Hymns (1989). Both collections contain only the words and excellent historical notes; no music is printed.
Specialized collections have been printed by Oxford University Press, under the title Carols for Choirs. This series includes four volumes published from 1961 to 1980, plus 100 Carols for Choirs published in 1987 (which included selections from the previous volumes 1, 2, and 3, as well as 26 new carols. All are still available from the Oxford University Press.
Other important 20th century collections include:
Finally, several publishers continue to print large collections of Christmas music – including Mel Bay Publications, the Hal Leonard Corporation, and Warner Brothers Publications. You’ll find these collections both on the web sites for these publishers, as well as in your local music stores. These are good sources for contemporary carols, still under copyright, which cannot otherwise be legally obtained. Illegal copies may be widely found on the Internet.
One of the side-effects of the collection of folk carols during this time is the revelation that a good set of lyrics may have numerous scores; and a good score may have many variations of lyrics . Even a carol as recent as "Away In A Manger" (1885) may have numerous musical settings . The carol that you grew up with — especially if it is popular one — may have other music attached to it. And a familiar tune may have different words. This is especially true when comparing U.S. and British collections of carols. The preferred British version may be almost unknown in the United States, and vice versa. In England, "…each village had its own store of carols, and nothing would induce one village to appropriate the Carols of another." Even today, in many parts of Yorkshire and Derbyshire, "While Shepherds Watched" is rarely heard to the nationally known tune Winchester Old, instead it occurs in dozens of different versions - including highly ornate settings like Pentonville and Lyngham, England. 
It is also the case that there may be several versions of a particular hymn or carol. This can arise for several reasons: Let us take the hypothetical case of an old carol, printed for example in the 16th century. Variations from the original might occur for several reasons.
In addition to collections of carols, there have been a number of notable books issued about Christmas carols and hymns, including:
1. Ralph Vaughan Williams, b. Oct. 12, 1872, d. Aug. 26, 1958, was an English composer, also active at various periods of his career as organist, conductor, lecturer, teacher, editor, and writer. His influence on the development of 20th-century music in England was immense. By reaching back into the music of Tudor times and delving into the treasury of folk music, he infused his own works with tradition, creating a truly contemporary idiom whose roots were solidly planted in the cultural soil of his country. A concise, contemporary biography is Simon Heffer, Vaughan Williams (London: Phoenix, 2000). See also Studwell and Jones, Publishing Glad Tidings, pp. 63-66. For information concerning Percy Dearmer, see pp. 59-62; for information concerning Martin Shaw, see pp. 67-72. Return
2. Vaughan Williams reportedly hated his given name, Ralph, and preferred to be called "Rafe." Return
3. Rev. Hutchins was a frequent editor of hymnals and related materials, including Sunday School Hymnal and Service Book (Boston: Parish Choir, 1892; alternate title Hymnal and Service Book for Sunday Schools Edition), Church Hymnal (Boston: Parish Choir, 1887, reprinted 1892; revised and enlarged, 1894, with reprintings in 1898, 1899, 1904, 1912, 1915, 1916 and 1925; alternate title: The Chant and Service Book). Return
4. Excluding the editor’s personal collection, which has not been published in book form. The printed version in the editor's study is approximately five feet wide, making it unlikely to be published in the traditional sense. Publication to the World Wide Web seemed to be the only feasible means of dissemination. Return
5. William E. Studwell and Dorothy E. Jones Publishing Glad Tidings (New York: Haworth Press, 1998), pp. 105-113. Return
6. Sir Richard Runciman Terry, 1865–1938, English organist and musicologist. He was organist and choir director (1901–24) of the Westminster Cathedral Choir School. The vision of Cardinal Vaughan, the original founder of the Cathedral, gave great weight to music. He had been much inspired by the revival of Gregorian chant at Solesmes Abbey in France and was also influenced by the Anglican cathedral choir tradition. Accordingly, the establishment of a first-class choir at Westminster, supported by a residential choir school, became an early priority. The first group of young choristers was assembled a year before the cathedral opened, under the direction of the visionary Richard (later Sir Richard) Runciman Terry, the first Master of Music. Cardinal Vaughan addressed the boys when he welcomed them to the cathedral: "You are the foundation stones"..
Sir Terry wrote the music to the hymn, 'Praise to the Holiest in the height' (words by John Henry Newman) The hymn was played on June 25, 1999 at the funeral mass of Cardinal George Basil Hume, Archbishop of Westminister.
Terry studied and made collections of early English church music and edited the Westminster Hymnal (1912), the official hymnal for Roman Catholic use in England. He is author of Catholic Church Music (1907) and The Music of the Roman Rite (1931). He edited a reprinting of The Scottish Psalter of 1635.
7. See Studwell and Jones, Publishing Glad Tidings, pp. 115-119. Return
8. See Studwell and Jones, Publishing Glad Tidings, pp. 85-87. Return
9. This was especially so in the 17th century, when from six to twelve came to be considered a sufficient number of tunes for any ordinary church. Return
10. 41 tunes according to research conducted by Richard S. Hill, who published his results under the title of Not So Far Away In A Manger: Forty One Settings of an America Carol in the Music Library Association's Notes, December 1945 (Volume III. No. 1).. Hill clarified a numerous misconceptions about this carol. See the notes in Keyte and Parrott, The New Oxford Book of Carols and Studwell, The Christmas Carol Reader. Return
11. From "Regional and Historical Carols From Across England", the liner notes to A Garland of Christmas, a Christmas CD by Coope Boyes & Simpson (1 November 1998). Return
12. Erik Routley was born on October 31, l9l7, at Brighton, England. He went to Magdalen College, Oxford. After studying at Mansfield College, he was ordained in 1943, at Trinity Congregational Church, Wednesbury, Dartford, in Edinburgh. Later he became the pastor at Dartford Congregational Church. In l948, he was appointed tutor and lecturer on church history at Mansfield College. In 1952, he completed his Ph.D. degree at Oxford. His thesis was The Music of Christian Hymnody. It was published in 1957. He also served at Augustine-Bristo Congregational Church in Edinburgh, and at St. James's Congregational Church at Newcastle-upon-Tyne. He was elected president of the Congregational Church of England and Wales in 1970, for one year. He came to the United States in 1975 and was Professor and Director of Music at Princeton Theological Seminary. He also became Professor of Church Music at Westminster Choir College in Princeton and became the director of the chapel.
Routley was well-known and respected in the fields of hymnody and church music. He has published many books. They include: the Church and Music, 1950; The English Carol. 1958; Church Music and Theology, 1959; Music and Profane, 1960; University Carol Book, 1961, Hymns Today and Tomorrow, 1964; Twentieth Century Church Music 1964; The Musical Wesleys and Words, Music, and the Church in 1968; Exploring the Psalms, 1975; and Church Music and the Christian Faith, 1978. He was secretary of the committee that prepared Congregational Praise, 1951; principal editorial consultant of Cantate Domino, third edition, 1974, the hymnal of the World Council of Churches. He was also editor of Westminster Praise and its companion. He was editor of the Bulletin of the Hymn Society of Great Britain, from 1948-1974. He has published hymn texts and hymn tunes as well as numerous articles. He is considered by many to be the father of the 20th century "hymn explosion." He died in 1982. Notes from the Hymnuts and Studwell and Jones, Publishing Glad Tidings, pp. 89-94. Return
Collections of Christmas Carols & Poetry
Other Books by Doug Anderson
A Psalter – A Book of the Psalms Arranged by Luther's Categories
Betbüchlein: A Personal Prayer Book, a recreation of Luther's 1529 prayer book
Luther's Writings on Prayer: A Selection
Devotions for the Advent – 2009
The Lenten Sermons of Martin Luther, Second Edition
Descriptions of all these volumes can be seen at
Christmas is a wonderful, cheerful holiday. Whether we spend it by a real tree or some Balsam Hill artificial Christmas trees, at the end of the day what matters is that we enjoy our time together with our loved ones.
The Hymns and Carols of Christmas
© Copyright 1996, All Rights Reserved.
Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam