"THE ONE GREAT CHRISTMAS MYTH OF MODERN LITERATURE": FIRST EDITIONS OF DICKENS' ILLUSTRATED CHRISTMAS BOOKS, ALL IN ORIGINAL GILT-DECORATED CLOTH
DICKENS, Charles. The Christmas Books. London: Chapman and Hall, 1843-48. Together, five volumes. Small octavo, original gilt-stamped rose and red cloths, all edges gilt. Housed in a custom half morocco clamshell box. $22,000.
First editions of all five of Charles Dickens' Christmas Books, illustrated with 63 engravings, four in color, by Leech, Maclise, Stanfield, Doyle and Landseer, all books in the original gilt-decorated cloth. A lovely 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." The publication history of A Christmas Carol is bibliographically complex, with Dickens making changes after viewing preliminary copies. A Christmas Carol is second issue, with "Stave One" as first chapter heading and text otherwise entirely uncorrected, red-and-blue title page dated 1843, half title printed in blue, with yellow endpapers. Binding matches Todd's first impression, first issue, with smallest interval between blindstamped border and gilt wreath equal to 14mm., and with upper serif of the "D" in "Dickens" unbroken. Dickens followed A Christmas Carol's tremendous 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 the first state of the engraved title page (publisher's imprint is engraved within the 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 The Haunted Man and The Ghost's Bargain. All advertisements present, as issued. Eckel, 110-125. Smith II: 4-6, 8-9. Chimes with bookplate of accomplished Dickens collector Samuel T. Mills. Bookseller ticket in Cricket.
Christmas Carol near-fine and unrestored with faint foxing and soiling to title page, plates fine, occasional foxing through text; cloth clean, with only mild rubbing to extremities, gilt quite bright. Chimes, Cricket, and Battle of Life all beautiful and fine. Haunted Man with only a few tiny spots of soiling. A most desirable set.