A Gorgeous First Edition Set of Dickens' Christmas Books, Including a First Issue of A Christmas CarolCharles Dickens. The Christmas Books. London: Chapman and Hall, 1843-48. First editions of all five of Charles Dickens' Christmas Books, chief among them a first issue of his immortal A Christmas Carol, the veritable "Bible of Christmas." Five small octavo volumes. Illustrated with sixty-three engravings altogether, four in color, by Leech, Maclise, Stanfield, Doyle and Landseer. Striking early 20th-century full red polished calf by Zaehnsdorf, raised bands, elaborately gilt-decorated spines, deep brown morocco spine labels. Marbled endpapers. All edges gilt. Housed together in a custom slipcase. A Christmas Carol with expert reinforcement to joints. Minimal foxing to a few volumes. A beautifully bound set of the famous Christmas books in near fine condition. From a private collection from New Orleans.
Christmas Carol readily be called the Bible of Christmas... It was issued about ten days before Christmas, 1843, and 6000 copies were sold on the first day... the number of reprintings have been so many that all attempts at the figures have been futile. Altogether 24 editions were issued in the original format"(Eckel, 110). "It was a work written at the height of Dickens' great powers, which would add to his considerable fame, bring a new work to the English language, increase the festivities at Christmastime, and contain his most eloquent protest at the condition of the poor" (John Mortimer). "Suddenly conceived and written within a few weeks, [A Christmas Carol] was the first of Dickens' Christmas books (a new literary genre thus created incidentally) ... it was an extraordinary achievement-the one great Christmas myth of modem literature."
The publication history of A Christmas Carol is bibliographically complex. "Dickens decided to publish the book himself... He wanted the Carol to be a beautiful gift book and took pride in its development. He stipulated the following requirements: a fancy binding, blind-stamped, with gilding on the spine and front cover; all edges gilded; four full-page hand-colored etchings; half title and title pages printed in colors of bright red and green; and hand-colored green endpapers to match the green title page... However, in 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 title page changed from 1844 to 1843,and the endpapers changed to yellow, which did not require hand work. Dickens' changes were completed by December 17... Since Dickens' instructions to discontinue the unsatisfactory titles and endpapers were received at the press before publication, at a time when there were on hand different quantities of endpapers, title pages, and sheets of printed text already produced, many copies are found with a mixture of features"(Gimbel A79). Christmas Carol is from the first issue, with uncorrected text ("Stave I" as the first chapter heading), the red-and-blue title page dated 1843, and the half title printed in blue. followed its success with four more Christmas books. In each book, he deftly develops the themes of the first, ideals that have consequently become inseparable from the holiday itself: love and redemption, charity and mercy. First edition of The Chimes, with second state of the engraved title page (publisher's imprint is below the engraved title vignette); First edition of The Cricket on the Hearth, with second state of advertising leaf at rear (headed "New Edition of Oliver Twist"); First edition of The Battle of Life, with vignette title page in the fourth state(subtitled "A Love Story" on a scroll carried by an angel and without publisher's imprint); First edition of Haunted Man and Ghost's Bargain. 110-125. Smith II: 4-6, 8-9. Gimbel (Podeschi) A79,A86, A92, Al 16, Al 19.
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