First American edition. 1844 A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. Harper, NY


The first American edition of Charles Dickens' classic, A Christmas Carol.

In late December of 1843 Dickens produced the first London edition, just in time for Christmas. It was immediately successful, and copies of it were put on a boat bound for America (Dickens himself sending copies to a friend, the accompanying letter still surviving).

When that boat landed, Harper and Brothers pirated the work by printing a rudimentary Christmas Carol in January of 1844, without illustrations, and with the most basic typographical layout. That is the book here for sale.

The go-to bibliographer, Walter Smith, states that "the only printed review of the book" was printed in The Knickerbocker in March 1844 under Literary Notices. I have found an earlier review; in the February 17th, 1844, Magazine for the Million (New York), on page 18 there is a review of the Harper and Brothers printing of the Christmas Carol. They write:

"This is a short story - short and sweet - worthy of the author of Oliver Twist, Nicholas Nickleby, and the portrayer of Little Nell; worthy of the unaffected friendship and affection with which Mr. Dickens was received on his visit to the United States; worthy of the hero of the ovation at the Park Theatre which he has so unworthily repaid of late, in the American Notes and Martin Chuzzlewit."

"For all this, the Christmas Carol is a glorious good story, and will produce laughter and tears, alternately, from those who are susceptible of emotions of humor and pathos."

"Old Scrooge, a miserable miser, sees three ghosts of Christmas Past, Christmas Present, and Christmas to Come, and becomes a good fellow. It is better than a sermon, and as good a sixpence worth as need be."

About the Work -

"Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol during a period when the British were exploring and re-evaluating past Christmas traditions, including carols, and newer customs such as cards and Christmas trees. He was influenced by the experiences of his own youth and by the Christmas stories of other authors, including Washington Irving and Douglas Jerrold. Dickens had written three Christmas stories prior to the novella, and was inspired following a visit to the Field Lane Ragged School, one of several establishments for London's street children. The treatment of the poor and the ability of a selfish man to redeem himself by transforming into a more sympathetic character are the key themes of the story. There is discussion among academics as to whether this is a fully secular story, or if it is a Christian allegory." - Wikipedia

About the Author (in extreme brief) -

Charles Dickens (1812 –1870) was an English novelist and social critic who created some of the world's best-known fictional characters, and is regarded by many as the greatest novelist of the Victorian era. His works enjoyed unprecedented popularity during his lifetime and, by the 20th century, critics and scholars had recognized him as a literary genius. His novels and short stories are widely read today.

Bibliographic Details -

Worldcat catalogue number 6149821 - 33 copies found in the world's libraries.

Physical Attributes -

Protective wallet case measures approx. 25 x 16 x .7 cm. It was produced in cloth, with a leather label to the front with the author, title, printer and year in gilt on blue morocco. Inside is a folder, lined with (presumably) acid free paper in which the work sits.

The book is disbound, and begins with the title page (a preliminary leaf of "Popular Literature ads missing). Pagination is 3-31, the verso of the last leaf being blank (page 32). The book was printed two columns to a page, and without illustration.

Condition -

See pictures. Protected in a folder that mounts within a wallet.

Book is missing it's original wrappers, and a 1st leaf that had advertisements, labelled Popular Literature.

The first gathering is more toned than the second, it must have been from a batch of paper with higher acidic levels, 19th century paper publishing being a chemical intensive process.

Due to being disbound, many of the leaves are hanging on from a few pieces of leftover spine glue.

Regarding the text block - there is some page edge chipping and dog-eared corners throughout. The title page has a 1" water mark and faint traces of writing near the top. Some light foxing, as is typical to paper of this era.

The protective folders show a little toning from thumbing; I think the work has been preserved in this manner for some time. Also, a little sunning to the outer blue wallet folder, with some fading to the blue.

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