"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times": First Edition, First Issue of Charles Dickens' A Tale Of Two Cities
A Tale of Two Cities.
Item Number: 99743
London: Chapman and Hall, 1859.
First edition, first issue of one of Dickens’ most enduring works, with p. 213 misnumbered “113,” the signature mark “b” at the foot of the plate list, and the misspelling “affetcionately” on line 12, p. 134. Octavo, bound in full leather, gilt titles to the spine, elaborate gilt tooling to the spine, gilt ruled to the front and rear panels, gilt embossed portrait of Dickens to the front panel, gilt signature to the rear panel, all edges gilt, marbled endpapers, inner dentelles. Sixteen plates after H.K. Browne including frontispiece and title vignette. In fine condition.
The most famous and possibly the most popular of Dickens's novels, A Tale of Two Cities shows a master of dramatic narrative extracting gold from the ore of history. If the bloody tableau of the French Revolution were not in itself sufficient for a dozen novels, Dickens added to it a professional resurrectionist, an authentic ogress, and an antihero as convincingly flawed as any in modern literature. “Dickens had always admired Carlyle’s History of the French Revolution, and asked him to recommend suitable books from which he could research the period; in reply Carlyle sent him a ‘cartload’ of volumes… So great was [Dickens’] enthusiasm for the story that it had indeed ‘taken in possession’ of him… The force of the novel springs from its exploration of darkness and death but its beauty derives from Dickens’ real sense of transcendence, from his ability to see the sweep of destiny” (Ackroyd, 858). The last of Dickens’ books to be illustrated by H.K. Browne (“Phiz”), with 16 engraved plates by him. “Browne, for 23 years responsible for all the etchings which had so successfully embellished these [Dickens’] books, produced his last drawings for the present work… Bradbury and Evans, the printers of all and publishers of five of Dickens’ works as issued in monthly parts, had ceased to act in this dual capacity after completion of Little Dorrit… [resulting] in the return of Chapman and Hall as publishers of this and all succeeding works” (Hatton & Cleaver, 333).