First Edition Set of Dickens' Christmas Books, Including a First Issue of A Christmas Carol
The Christmas Books: A Christmas Carol; The Chimes; The Battle of Life; Cricket on the Hearth; The Haunted Man and The Ghost’s Bargain.
Item Number: 3895
London: Chapman and Hall, 1843-48.
First editions of all five of Charles Dickens’ Christmas Books, chief among them a first issue of A Christmas Carol, the veritable “Bible of Christmas.” Octavo, 5 volumes. Bound in full red polished calf by Zaehnsdorf, raised bands, elaborately gilt-decorated spines, marbled endpapers. All edges gilt. Housed together in a custom slipcase. Illustrated with sixty-three engravings altogether, four in color, by Leech, Maclise, Stanfield, Doyle and Landseer. 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. Four more Christmas books followed its success. 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). An exceptional set.
A Christmas Carol "may 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 modern literature."