Thursday, October 15, 2020

William Mortensen Vaughan's Top 6 Hard Copy Editions of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol

1. The Annotated Christmas Carol, illustrated by John Leech, edited with an introduction and notes by Michael Patrick Hearn

2. A Christmas Carol, first edition

3. A Christmas Carol:  The Graphic Novel

4. A Christmas Carol:  The Original Manuscript Edition, with a foreword by Colm Tóibín

5. A Christmas Carol and Other Christmas Stories, Barnes and Noble, New York

6.  Great Christmas Stories, Easton Press

As Christmas 2020 approaches, we find ourselves doing some Christmas shopping, perhaps earlier than other years, and perhaps more so online than in any previous year, as we continue to endure the hardships associated with CoVID-19, also known as the Corona Virus Infectious Disease 2019.

One Christmas item which we've probably had on our shelves most, if not all of our lives, is a hard copy of a "Ghostly little book" titled A Christmas Carol, by a man some identify, perhaps blasphemously, as "The Man Who Invented Christmas," but whom we all know by the name of Charles Dickens. If you're like me, you no longer have in your possession the first hard copy of that novel you ever owned. You may or may not have replaced it, as I have, with several other hard copies, and, if you're as much of a fan of this "Ghost Story of Christmas" as I am, you're always looking for yet another edition to add to your collection, or to the collection of someone you love. For just such occasions, these are my recommendations:

My first recommendation is The Annotated Christmas Carol, illustrated by John Leech (the man who illustrated the first edition), edited with an introduction and notes by Michael Patrick Hearn.  I am currently in possession of the second or third copy of this book which I've had in my possession for years. I don't remember what became of the previous copy(-ies) I own, any more than I remember what became of the first copy of A Christmas Carol that my mother gave me. What I do know is that this is THE copy which I read and from and refer on daily.

The reason that this is my favorite edition is that it is full of  notes explaining the origins of the original, unabridged novel, and the archaic expressions found throughout it - expressions such as "Walker!" "grog," and "Jack Robinson."

With a lengthy introduction which includes a history of the celebration of Christmas, as well as a biography of Charles Dickens, and a copy of A Christmas Carol in Four Staves (which Dickens referred to during his theatrical presentations), this edition is also full of historic illustrations from various sources, eight of which are in color, and are copies of the art used in the first edition of A Christmas Carol.

Which brings us to...

My second recommendation, which is a copy of the first edition.  For those of you who, like me, do not own such an ancient tome, but would like to have a facsimile, or a "faithful reproduction of the original first edition of Dickens' A Christmas Carol," they are available for online purchase, for about thirty U.S. Dollars or less.  For those of you who, unlike me, must have (not a facsimile!) but an actual copy printed among the first edition in December, 1843, I've seen one advertised online for almost five figures (ten thousand U.S. Dollars).

My third recommendation is A Christmas Carol:  The Graphic Novel. Clive Bryant is the Editor in Chief of the "Original Text Version," which I have a copy of, but there is also a "Quick Text" version, in "modern English for a fast-paced read!" Joanna Watts served as the "Publishing Assistant." These editions and Apple iBook versions are available in British or American English, at:

They also offer an edition which is a "Teacher's Resource Pack." This is spiral bound to facilitate photocopying, and includes activities and exercises, as well as a copy in the form of a .pdf file on a CD-ROM disc.

These comic books are ideal for those occasions when you're too tired to read the unabridged novel, but would like to peruse the most heavily illustrated, abridged edition you can find, or for reading it as a bedtime story with a loved one. 

My "Original Text Version" is based on a "Script Adaptation" by Sean Michael Wilson, and an "American English Adaptation" by Keith Howell. It includes "Pencils" by Mike Collins, "Inks" by David Roach, "Coloring" by James Offredi, "Lettering" by Terry Wiley, "Design" and "Layout" by Jo Wheeler and Jenny Placentino, and "Additional Information" by Karen Wenborn.

My fourth recommendation is A Christmas Carol:  The Original Manuscript Edition, with a foreword by Colm Tóibín. This edition is the height and width of a normal book, but its only the width of a finger. It has "digitally photographed, high resolution, full-colored" (sepia on sepia) "facsimiles" of the original pages of Charles Dickens' manuscript, in his own handwriting, on the left, and a printed transcription of the writing on each page, on the facing page to the right, making it easy to refer to the transcript when you find it difficult to read Dickens' handwriting. 

The Morgan Library and Museum in Manhattan, New York, had this manuscript in its possession, and allowed these pages to be scanned for the purpose of making them available to the masses in affordable "trade editions." Secondhand copies are available online for less than ten U.S. Dollars; new copies sell for about thirty. 

"The Morgan" used to allow people to view this manuscript every Christmas season. On Christmas Eve, 1994, James Earl Jones and Martin Sheen read excerpts from A Christmas Carol, during a black and white tie affair, at this library, and this event was filmed for distribution on VHS tapes. 

This little book is just too much fun not to have, if you're a collector of Dickens' literature. (The same can be said of the VHS tapes I mentioned, but that's for another list.)

[NOTE:  Those of you following the news about Manhattan probably realize that this year might not be a good year to visit "The Morgan," but its official website claims that it "has reopened," and encourages potential patrons to "plan [their] visit." Personally, I wouldn't recommend it.]

My fifth recommendation, A Christmas Carol and Other Christmas Stories, is available for about forty to eighty U.S. Dollars from various online purveyors of secondhand items; I've even seen it offered for as low as $21.99. 

According to ThriftBooks, this book is "[p]art of Penguin's...hardback Clothbound Classics series, designed by the award-winning Coralie Bickford-Smith...bound in high-quality colourful, tactile cloth with foil stamped into the design."

Having a copy of this edition in my possession, I can tell you that it looks and feels like the most luxurious edition of A Christmas Carol that I have ever held. If I had not read that it was cloth-bound, I would have assumed that it was probably leather-bound. All three edges of the pages are gilt, and it comes with a ribbon bookmark sewn into the binding.  Its frontis- and "backpieces" are two-page, full-color illustrations, presumably of Bob Cratchit carrying Tiny Tim through the streets of Victorian London.

This book is seven hundred and sixty pages long, in addition to the Introduction, which ends on page "viii," and includes the following Christmas books and stories by Charles Dickins:

The Chimes

The Cricket on the Hearth

The Battle of Life

The Haunted Man

"The Story of the Goblins Who Stole a Sexton"

"A Christmas Tree"

"What Christmas Is as We Grow Older"

"The Poor Relation's Story"

"The Child's Story"

"The Schoolboy's Story"

"Nobody's Story"

"The Seven Poor Travelers"

"The Holly Tree"

"Going Into Society"

"Mrs. Lirriper's Lodgings"

"Mrs. Lirriper's Legacy"

"Dr. Marigold"

"Mugby Junction"

[Written with Wilkie Collins]:

"The Wreck of the Golden Mary"

"No Thoroughfare"

"The Lazy Tour of Two Idle Apprentices"

My sixth recommendation, Great Christmas Stories, by Easton Press, is for those of you who just want a high quality edition, bound in genuine leather for display. It is possible to buy one of these secondhand, for about one hundred U.S. Dollars. This edition includes some of Charles Dickens' other Christmas stories:  "The Chimes," "The Cricket on the Hearth," "The Battle of Life," and "The Haunted Man."

Any or all of the above-mentioned items should put "readers out of humor," as Dickens wrote. "May [at least one of them] haunt their houses pleasantly"!

Great Christmas Stories by Charles Dickens




Guest blog post by William Mortensen Vaughan, the Webmaster of

No comments:

Post a Comment