Rare Book of the Month: A Christmas Carol

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Although we don’t collect a lot of Dickens, we thought A Christmas Carol would be a seasonally appropriate choice for this month’s rare book feature. Dickens was one of the most famous and prolific authors of the Victorian era, and his work enjoyed great popularity across all social classes. When A Christmas Carol was first published in 1843, it became an instantaneous success and ultimately his most cherished Christmas themed story.

The transformation of the miserly Ebeneezer Scrooge to philanthropist as he is visited by various spirits, including the ghost of his former business partner, Jacob Marley, has inspired numerous visual retellings of the story. Our 1915 edition features illustrations by artist Arthur Rackham, who was perhaps as equally prolific as Dickens in the realm of Edwardian illustration. His artwork for A Christmas Carol is a mix of coloured plates in watercolour and black line drawings. Unlike other illustrated editions of A Christmas Carol, Rackham’s imagery, particularly in depictions of the three spirits, bears a whimsical quality that belies the somewhat spooky and supernatural nature of the story.

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