London: Chapman & Hall, 1843. 8vo. [xiv], 166 pp., plus 2 page catalogue of additional works by Dickens. FIRST EDITION, FIRST ISSUE. Four inserted hand-colored steel-engraved plates by and after Leech and four black and white text wood-engravings by W.J. Linton after Leech. Full green morocco by Sangorski & Sutcliffe with intricate gilt stamping on front and back including the letter “E” and 1908 in the top corners and “Xmas 1908” in the bottom corners, all in gilt, spine in compartments with gilt lettering and ornaments, all edges gilt; title page printed in red and blue, and half title printed in blue. Tipped in is a leaf of thick paper with an elaborate multi-colored and gold pen and ink illustration of a London street scene with the words, “To Edmund From” and dated Christmas, 1908. The street is in Central London and shows numerous shops, including the bookstore of the well-known London bookseller Walter Spencer. It is quite probable that the illustration was done by Alberto Sangorski, the brother of Francis (who founded the bindery) and a well-known illustrator. The fly-leaf is signed by Francis Sangorski, George Sutcliffe, and Spencer (fl. 1860-1880), who was friends with Dickens. The original brown publisher’s cloth binding is bound in on 3 separate leaves (front, back and spine). A unique, exquisite copy. Item #16149
First edition, first issue, with all first issue points (half-title printed in blue, title printed in blue and red with the 1843 date thereon, “Steve I” on page 1 with the uncorrected text). One of Dickens’ most acclaimed works, capturing of the zeitgeist of the Victorian-era revival of the celebration of the holiday. It describes the evolution of businessman Ebenezer Scrooge from arrogant, stubborn miser to warm-hearted, kind holiday celebrant, following his meeting with the now famed characters of the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future. Published on 19 December, the first edition sold out by Christmas Eve, 1843.
Given the illustration and binding, it is likely that the book was specially bound for someone who was both a client of the bindery as well as the bookseller Walter Spencer. Sangorski and Sutcliffe made “Christmas bindings” as gifts for good customers over the years, but this example is clearly not one of their usual holiday offerings, as none of those were ever signed. It is possible (though not at all proven) that the Edmund to whom the book and the binding was given was Edmund Dulac, who was indeed a customer of both the bindery and the bookseller at the time (1908) and who was living in Central London.
Dickens (1812-1870), known for his many other notable works, including Oliver Twist and David Copperfield, penned A christmas carol during England’s revived exploration of yuletide traditions and the newly emerging ones, taking inspiration from tales written by Washington Irving and Douglas Jerrold. Deeply in debt, Dickens began this novel in the 1840s in order to supplement his family’s deficient income. This work resulted in acknowledging Dickens as a lasting influence on the modern Western observance of Christmas, including the festive generosity of spirit experienced during the holiday season.