A sensitive moment now, as we embark on the treatise for Day Twelve of our festive odyssey, not because it’s the last such entry (notwithstanding the upcoming Day Thirteen ‘wassailing’ blog), but because one of our most illustrious of ‘discoveries’ has been somewhat undermined by advances in technology !


For several years, I’ve been really rather smug (alright – insufferably so) having unpeeled the mysterious onion of day twelve’s leaping lords. The original source book for our take on the Twelve Days Of Christmas, Mirth Without Mischief, published in 1780 had been partially committed to digital record, with the majority of the images – one per day – having been archived and made viewable. Unfortunately, one of the missing images was the aforementioned leaping lords of day twelve.


Initially this was not an issue, as we tracked down another edition of the song which was published in 1810 by a gentleman going by the name of James Pitts. Mr Pitts had simply reproduced the original images – each of which matched the MWM version – and, hurrah, this edition did show the day twelve picture !


Splendidly, this – as reproduced above – showed our twelve lords leaping, not in the conventional manner, but rather by way of a Dutch means to cross watercourses known as fierljeppen. In simple terms, this was pole-vaulting – a traditional method of getting about

the low-lying and waterlogged countryside.


As with the other pics in the 1810 version, it seemed entirely reasonable (in my defence) to assume that this was a reproduction of the original. But I was wrong. As the catalogue of digitally archived books has grown over the years, with more and more being added all the time. Eventually, Mirth Without Mischief was scanned and catalogued in its entirety, and having eagerly flicked through to the relevant page, I was heartily crushed to see the picture shown here – twelve lords – leaping – over some rather disappointing, low hurdles.

Not a canal or a pole to be seen. Gloom descended, with a thud. And remains in situ.


Clearly, Mr Pitts had decided to get away from the original version for some reason, but the fact remains  that if we are to show any sort of consistency and stick rigidly with the first-published iteration of the images, our twelve lords should be doing nothing more edifying than jumping over their little hurdles – how very unadventurous of them.


However, with a degree of rarely-seen petulance, I’m going to leave my fierljeppen images of Delft tiles here for your perusal, next to the Pitts version of the picture. I’m also just going to have to accept that my oft-trumpeted foray in to the roots of Georgian cumulative folk-carol derivations should not be trumpeted quite so oft as has formerly been the case – with my apologies.

That said, the later pole-vaulting version has clearly been far more capably sketched than the 'hurdling' incarnation, and the gentlemen doing the leaping are far more clearly being portrayed as noble, sporting Lords, with their powdered wigs and smart breeches, compared to the other bunch of indeterminate, shuffling ne'erdowells; 'Twelve Urchins Skipping' is simply never going to catch on, even if they do have the benefit of having been the first-drawn; original does not always equate to best !

As you're here, why not take advantage of our Christmas Sale – select anything you want on the entire store, and use the code TWELVEDAYS in the shopping cart to get 12% off the marked price – the promotion runs until January 6th, so take your time and browse through the very many items we have listed - although do be smart about it, as that's only until tomorrow !

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