Original as the Dickens: Evanston bookseller boasts first edition ‘Christmas Carol’
Tom Joyce of Chicago, a partner at the Chicago Rare Book Center in Evanston, holds up a first edition, first printing of "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens from 1843, turned to the title page. | Ryan Pagelow~Sun-Times Media
What is it?
A first edition copy of Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol’’ for sale at Chicago Rare Books, 703 Washington St. It’s being sold on behalf of the family of Ralph Bolen, an Oklahoma auto dealer, who collected all things Christmas.
Noon to 5 p.m. Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, closed Monday
Updated: January 21, 2013 3:35PM
EVANSTON — The book was slipped unprotected inside a worn envelope normally used for priority mail, not even bubble wrapped, recalled rare book expert Thomas J. Joyce.
An Oklahoma man had sent along the book for Joyce to appraise. It was part of a vast collection of Christmas memorabilia amassed by his father, an auto dealer.
“He thought this was one of the lesser items,” Joyce recalled. After checking, he identified the book as an authentic first edition of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.”
“You could throw the rest of this stuff out and keep this one,” Joyce told the man.
“A Christmas Carol in Prose,” is on display at the Chicago Rare Book Center, 703 Washington St., where Joyce is a partner with owners Ann Dumler, Patricia Martinak and Paul Garon.
It falls in the ultimate Christmas gift category, listing for a mere $12,000.
Dickens sat down to write the story in October of 1843, finishing Dec. 19. He finished in what was described in the story as a “white heat of enthusiasm,” telling of Ebenezer Scrooge’s reformation after a visit from three ghosts. The author published the work at his own expense
“He knew was going to make money out of it. He knew it was a good work,” said Joyce.
Dickens was concerned “about how the book was going to look, the physical presentation of it,” Joyce noted, engaging John Leech to do the illustrations.
Because of the book’s instant popularity in England, it underwent numerous printings, posing a challenge to collectors to identify what they call the work’s “first state of the first impression,” Joyce said. Noted Dickens bibliophile Richard Gimbel owned at least 40 separate copies of the book published in the six years after initial publication.
Joyce’s copy meets the guidelines laid out by William B. Todd, considered an expert in the publishing priority of “A Christmas Carol.”
The copy has reddish brown cloth, and green coated endpapers. In addition, Joyce’s book contains the heading of chapter one as “Stave I,” marked with a Roman numeral. The chapter heading was changed from “I” to “One” in subsequent printings, he said, comparing the book with another Christmas Carol from the same collection, which has yellow papers.
At the shop Tuesday, Joyce, produced some other rare items from the same Oklahoma collection, including a 1940 edition of “A Christmas Carol” published privately by Foster McGaw, founder of American Hospital Supply, once based in Evanston.
“This was his Christmas card for special friends,’’ he said. “There are only 50 of them.”
He still has on sale a rare broadside print of Clement Moore’s “The Night Before Christmas,” which The Evanston Review wrote about last Christmas season.
The shop’s most valuable book is one of the first road atlases ever done in history. It lists for $25,000.
The book has no apparent Christmas theme.
“Let me work on that,’’ the enterprising book dealer says.