RARE BOOK GUIDE - THE RUNNERS, THE RIDERS & THE ODDS
11 November 2009
A Christmas Carol. Charles Dickens, 1843.
Charles Dickens. A CHRISTMAS CAROL. Chapman and Hall, London 1843.
Current Selling Prices
$8000 - $28000 / £5000 - £18000
CLASSIC LITERATURE / GHOST STORY
A Dickens classic, possibly his most famous book. Correct firsts must have the words 'Stave 1' at the heading of the first chapter (NOT 'Stave one' - people often confuse this and it's an expensive mistake to make.) There are other points but if you have the number 1 stave you're almost there. Endlessly filmed, cartooned and trotted out every Christmas.
Sometimes seen in pompous bindings, including Cosway bindings, and often in full red calf with the other 4 Christmas books. Not scarce, but limpid copies are very difficult to find and command serious dosh.
VALUE? 2 copies made $15000 at auction in 2005, both nice but neither in breathtaking condition. There are 3 copies on net at just over £20K and reasonable copies of the 1843 later issue at $4000 or so and some decent rebound early issue sets of all five Christmas books in the low thousands o' dollars. A copy inscribed to Thomas Hood sold for $50K in 1997, a year earlier a copy inscribed to Walter Savage Landor made $160,000.
Highly expensive 'fresh' copies often get sold to 'carriage trade' customers and don't get dumped on the internet. Great copies tend to turn up in odd places; watch out for repaired, tarted up, sophisticated and ringed copies. Reasonable but slightly worn copies and rebound ones can be bought for less painful sums than the above.
Our photo left is of a copy stolen in a heist at the Dickens Museum London August 2002. Note the slight black mark on the front cover at about 3 o'clock. The museum estimated it's cost at beteen £20,000 and £30,000. The museum is at 48 Doughty Street, Bloomsbury, where Dickens lived from 1837 to 1839. If offered it please call the police or the A.B.A. It was reported by the BBC 'Audacious raid on Dickens museum' and there are other pics of the book at their site. Andrew Xavier the curator said:'It is really sad and rather ironic that it is Dickens' book of goodwill to all men. '
This is a revisit of a posting from late 2007. 'Christmas Carol' prices have remained reasonably firm although some of the books mentioned are still for sale. "An exceptionally fine copy" (minor crimping at spine ends) sold for £16000 (+20%)- at Sotheby's, London on Dec 17, 2008. It may have benefited from yuletide sentiment. A 'Cosway style' bound true first has been around for 5 years or more at a heady $30K. It is hard to love these meretricious objects. They are the kind of book that Swiss Toni (Charlie Higson's comic used car salesman) would buy if he had the money ('...buying a Cosway binding is very much like making love to a beautiful woman...') Cosway bindings (named after the great miniaturist) are presumably still being done. They are said to have been invented by a Miss Currie who worked at Sotherans between 1912 and 1940. They always feature a miniature, usually of the author, set into the cover. They are often in full crushed morocco, with doublures, dentelles, silk endpapers and occasionally opalescent stones or pearls set into the leather. I am happy to buy them and even happier to sell them. An understated example is below featuring the bard.
There was a trend a while back for buying small antique pistols and placing them in leather bound cache livres (i.e. with the pages cut out and in a shape to accommodate the gun.) Best if the book was called 'Man with a Golden Gun' or 'The Shootist' or 'Gun for Sale ' or 'Johnny Got his Gun.' I once asked a dealer what kind of people bought these objects and it turned out, not unsurprisngly, that the customers were 'macho men.' Cosway bindings are a cut above the macho gun book, but not by much.