Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol, Chapman and Hall, 1843, $12,000 

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Three other Christmas Books by Charles Dickens, $500

I would love to sell these books this Christmas, but even if not I still enjoy showing off what are perhaps the best-quality images of A Christmas Carol on the internet!

See below for full-size scans

The printing history of this book is complex, mainly because there was a pre-publication trial printing, which differed from the actual printing for publication. This is one of the first copies that rolled off the press for actual publication, identifiable by the following issue points:

  • On the front board of the cover the "D" of "Dickens" is perfectly formed, and there is a 1.4 cm. distance between the blind-stamped border and the gilt on the cover. The bar of the "D" broke on the printing block as the first edition was being printed, pushing the whole block slightly out of alignment, and later copies have the broken letter and the border slightly askew.

  • The first part of the text is headed "STAVE I". The other staves are headed with the numbers spelled out, and the "I" was changed to "ONE" in later copies.

  • The year of publication is given as MDCCCXLIII (i.e., 1843). The pre-publication trial issue was dated 1844.

  • The endpapers are pale yellow. The trial issue had green endpapers.

  • The half-title is blue. In the trial issue it was green.

  • The title-page is blue and red. In the trial issue it was green and red.
  • For these differences between the trial issue and the first issue for publication see, e.g., Richard Gimbel, The Earliest State of the First Issue of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, which states: examining printed copies prior to publication, Dickens was disappointed with the appearance of the green titles, which turned drab, and the hand-colored green endpapers, which dusted off and smudged, and had the title page changed to red and blue, the half title to blue, the date on the title page changed from 1844 to 1843, and the endpapers changed to yellow, which did not require hand work. Dickens's changes were completed by December 17 and all presentation copies of that date (two days prior to publication) have the above changes.

    However, recent scholarship has shown that, despite Dickens's new instructions, the printers used up the remaining green endpapers before moving on to the yellow ones, and there are quite a few "mixed state" copies, which combine some of the features of the pre-
    trial issue with some of the features given in Dickens's final instructions to the printers.

    This copy, usually referred to these days as "first issue, second state" has all the features given in Dickens's final instructions to the printers, and is the rarest of all the early issues.

    A Christmas Carol was issued in a delicate cloth binding, and a lot of surviving copies of the book have been rebound. This is in its original cloth binding with gilt titles on the spine and cover, and all edges gilt. The illustrations by John Leech are coloured by hand. 


    • The condition of the book itself is very good indeed. There is a small, professional - and almost invisible - repair to the head of the spine and another to the bottom inside corner of the second plate. The boards are very clean, retaining some of the original salmon colour (which generally fades to brown), the spine is in beautiful condition (no rubbing of the spine ends), and there is extremely slight rubbing of corners (only the lower rear corner is clearly worn through). Unlike the other Christmas books, which came out in a red binding, A Christmas Carol was issued in a light brown – almost salmon-coloured – cover, which tends to fade with time; this copy retains much of the original salmon cover. The book is very, very slightly cocked, but nice and tight in its binding, and the contents are bright and clean, with a bit of light spotting. There is a lightly-inked 1843 inscription on the half-title. 

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