The Christmas Fireside, The Story of a Bad Little Boy that Bore a Charmed Life, was written by ‘Grandfather Twain’ for “Good Little Girls and Boys” in the December 23, 1865 issue of The San Francisco Californian. The bad little boy of the story was truly a rascal, whose crimes included eating jam and filling it up with tar so his mother would not notice, climbed the neighbors tree to steal apples, hitting his sister, and stealing his teachers penknife and planting it on another child. He led a ‘charmed life’ because he never got caught or suffered consequences for his actions. In fact, he “…got wealthy by cheating and all manners of rascality, and now he is the infernalest wickedest scoundrel in his native village, and universally respected, and belongs in the Legislature,” Now that is piercingly funny as only Twain can do. The sentiment is certainly even more true today then when Twain wrote it!
This is a very small book (Lewis and Dorothy Allen called it a ‘slight book’), though beautiful and special. It was not meant for general circulation to subscribers or purchasers, but was published to be sent to friends of the Allens. With a limitation of only 75 copies, the book is very rare. It is also a pretty delicate book, making it even more rare to find one in decent condition. The book is bound in marbled boards, with titling in gold. The title page is in three colors (brown, red and green). They used the early English typeface Union Pearl for display and Bulmer type for text. There are two small Victorian wood engravings. One preceding the story is a clock with the caption ‘Observe the Time and Fly from Evil.’ The second, on the signature page, portrays a man in bed being handed a glass of medicine by his wife, titled ‘Mihi Aspirinam‘, meaning ‘make mine aspirin’. Speaking of the signature page, the book is signed ‘Dorothy and Lew’ under a jolly red ‘Merry Christmas’.
Despite being the smallest and amongst the least impressive of the Allens’ books, it is in the top tier in price, usually running $500-$750 or more in those rare occasions when one is for sale. It comes without any slipcase, so I had a somewhat basic slipcase and chemise made by Starr Bookworks to better protect this delicate work (see below).
About the Edition
- Bound in marbled boards
- Title in brown, red and green
- Illustrated with two Victorian wood engravings donated by Dr. James D. Hart, Director of The Bancroft Library
- Bulmer type and Union Pearl type for display (their first use of this early English type)
- 4″ x 5 1/4″, 18 pages
- Limited to 75 copies, signed by Lewis and Dorothy Allen
Pictures of the Edition
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