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Special Collections & Archives

The rare or unique holdings of Nimitz Library.

A Ghost Story of Christmas

by Jennifer Bryan on 2023-12-22T12:21:53-05:00 in English / Literature, History, Special Collections & Archives | 0 Comments

Among the books in the Harry F. Guggenheim Collection are first editions of Charles Dickens's Christmas books, published between 1843 and 1848.  These are A Christmas Carol, The Chimes, The Cricket on the Hearth, the Battle of Life, and The Haunted Man and the Ghost's Bargain.  

Charles Dickens began writing A Christmas Carol in October 1843, and finished it by the beginning of December.  London publishers Chapman and Hall issued the book on December 19, 1843.  Priced at 5 shillings, the first printing of 6,000 copies sold out by Christmas Eve.  A seventh edition had sold out by May, 1844.  The book has never been out of print and has been adapted numerous times for stage and screen.  



Illustrations were important to Dickens, as well as the appearance of his books.  It was probably at his suggestion that Chapman and Hall commissioned John Leech to provide the illustrations for A Christmas Carol.  Dickens wanted a title page printed in two colors, colored endpapers, gilt edges, and eight illustrations total, four in color.  He refused to accept the first copies of the book as the colors had not turned out well in printing.  He changed the color of the endpapers from green to yellow and the colors on the title page from red and green to red and blue.  First editions are bound in salmon brown, decorated in gilt and blind with gilt lettering.  After publication of A Christmas Carol, Dickens switched publishers and his other Christmas books are bound in red cloth with gilt decoration.




According to Dickens's friend and first biographer John Forster, "There was indeed nobody that had not some interest in the message of the Christmas Carol.  It told the selfish man to rid himself of selfishness; the just man to make himself generous; and the good-natured man to enlarge the sphere of his good nature.  Its cheery voice of faith and hope, ringing from one end of the island to the other, carried pleasant warning alike to all, that if the duties of Christmas were wanting no good could come of its outward observances; that it must shine upon the cold hearth and warm it, and into the sorrowful heart and comfort it; that it must be kindness, benevolence, charity, mercy, and forbearance, or its plum pudding would turn to bile, and its roast beef be indigestible.  Nor could any man have said it with the same appropriateness as Dickens."





Cohen, Jane R.  Charles Dickens and His Original Illustrators.  Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1980.  PR4586.C6 1980

Davis, Paul.  Charles Dickens A to Z.  New York: Facts on File, Inc., 1998.  PR4580.D38 1998

Forster, John.  The Life of Charles Dickens.  3 vols.  Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott & Company, 1872-1874.  PR 4581.F7 1872b  (Quote is from Volume 2 (1873), pp. 89-90.) 

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