Is there any book more appreciated in the Christmas season than A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens? It has been read by millions with a story line known by just about everyone. It has been made into more film and stage versions than you can count. Published in 1843, A Christmas Carol can be given significant credit for bringing back old Christmas traditions in England, most of which are now what Western Civilization thinks of when they think of Christmas. In that sense, it has been an enormously influential book.
The list of characters brings images to nearly everyone’s mind. Ebenezer Scrooge, Jacob Marley, Tiny Tim and the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet to Come. ‘Merry Christmas’, ‘Scrooge’ and ‘Bah! Humbug!’ all entered our lexicon through this story. Dickens (1812-1870) combined experiences from his own youth, with his sympathy for the poor and his affinity for Washington Irving’s stories of the traditional old English Christmas, to create a novella that was immediately successful and critically acclaimed. A Christmas Carol has never been out of print. In a situation that seems right out of another Dickens novel, Bleak House, Dickens only made today’s equivalent of about £19,000 from the book, and in fact then had to pay out £56,364 (in today’s terms) for a suit in which he won against a publisher who pirated the book (the publisher then declared bankruptcy; so Dickens was left with the costs.)
Reminding me of “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” from A Tale of Two Cities (another Dickens favorite), A Christmas Carol presents two sides of the coin of humanity; coldness and warmth, selfishness and selflessness, despair and happiness, poverty and wealth. Ultimately, it is story of renewal, of the ability of the human heart to reform. Ironically, a story that is now at the heart of Christmas, the world’s most recognized religious holiday, was written as a secular tale. Due to the success of A Christmas Carol, Dickens wrote four other Christmas novella’s, two of which will be reviewed in the coming weeks (The Chimes, and The Cricket on the Hearth). Critics did not care for these, but the public ate them up.
About the Edition
I just love this Limited Editions Club edition. It certainly is not the fanciest or nicest ever produced, but it perfectly matches what it should. The cover design softly evokes winter and Christmas. The paper and type are fabulous, the hand-colored illustrations provide decent imagery and the size is perfect for cuddling up next to a fire, with a nice glass of aged port, to read to your children!
- Designed and printed by D.B. Updike at The Merrymount Press, Boston, Massachusetts
- Hand-colored illustrations in watercolor by Gordon Ross, who signs the edition
- 14 point Caslon type, bought from H.W. Caslon and Company of London
- All rag paper from Hurlburt Paper Mills
- Introduction by Stephen Leacock
- Half-green buckram, decorative hand-made paper sides (made by Rosamond Loring) with paper label
- 7″ x 10″, 126 pages
- Limited to 1500 copies, mine is #888