Today we celebrate Dickens A Christmas Carol , first published on December 19, 1843. Illustrated by John Leech, it was the first of Dickens’s Christmas stories, instantly successful, selling over 6,000 copies in a week. It also stimulated a revival of the Christmas traditions that we associate with Victorian England, many of which we still practice today. But it is the enduring story and character of Ebenezer Scrooge that remain with us through the years. I remember as a child the excitement of every Christmas Eve listening to the story and then watching the 1951 movie version on a 12″ black & white TV screen starring Alastair Sim, and can STILL get frightened even thinking about those dragging chains of Jacob Marley’s Ghost!
Dickens was very involved in the production of the book, an elaborate volume far superior to other works published at the time selling for only five shillings. The first edition, published by Chapman & Hall, had a russet binding blind-stamped with the title in gold, yellow endpapers, and a title page printed in blue and red [see above] (the latter has been changed after a “trial” printing, as Dickens was displeased with the original green endpapers and green and red title page….[I do, however see some discrepancy in the sources regarding this description and need to do further research…]
What is a first edition valued at today? A copy [see above image] just sold at the December 17, 2008 London Sotheby’s auction for 20,000 GBP. There are copies listed online for $14,500 – $37,500.
There are so many editions of A Christmas Carol, and so much written about Dickens and this, the first of his Christmas Stories, that I cannot do any justice to the resources. So I append only a few, along with several online links for more information:
THE MAN WHO INVENTED CHRISTMAS: How Charles Dickens’s “A Christmas Carol” Rescued His Career and Revived Our Holiday Spirits, by Les Staniford. Crown, 2008. The newest book on the subject…
Hear, Michael Patrick, editor. The Annotated Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, illus. by John Leech. Avon, 1977. A facsimile text of the first edition, with reproductions of the hand-colored engravings and additional illustrations by Cruikshank, “Phiz,” Tenniel, and others; an extensive introduction by Hearn, notes, and bibliography. [reprinted in 2004]
Osborne, Allen. Facts about A Christmas Carol. London, Bradley, 1937.
Smith, Walter E. Charles Dickens in the Original Cloth. A Bibliographical Catalogue.. Part II. The Christmas Books and Selected Secondary Works. Los Angeles, Heritage Bookshop, 1983.
Online links ~ Text
- A Christmas Carol – full text at Stormfax, Inc.
- A Christmas Carol – full text with illustrations at Elegant ebooks
- A Christmas Carol – full text at Internet Archive
- A Christmas Carol – text as condensed by Dickens for his public readings [with annotated links], at David Perdue’s Charles Dickens Page
- A Christmas Carol – audio at LibriVox
Online Links ~ Select Sources
- Dickens & Christmas at the Charles Dickens Page, with many additional links, including the printing costs and profits
- The Charles Dickens Gad’s Hill Place site, on A Christmas Carol
- The current exhibit of the manuscript at the Morgan Library
- A Christmas Carol on YouTube – there are MANY from the various film adaptations!
- Images of A Christmas Carol – book covers, illustrations, etc.
- Timeline for A Christmas Carol at Google
- A Christmas Carol quiz on The Literature Network
- The Real Ghosts in A Christmas Carol , and A Christmas Carol, Pt. 2 Astral Travel and A Christmas Carol, the Facts at Hollow Hill.com
- The Astrology of A Christmas Carol at Astrology Explored
- Wikipedia entry, including plot summaries, analysis, characters, adaptations, bibliography
Have yourself a very Merry Christmas!