Rare Read: First Edition of Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’ Found

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CLEVELAND--Upstairs on the third floor of the Cleveland Public Library, securely locked inside the Special Collections Department is an extraordinary Christmas treasure.

The library owns an original first-edition copy of the Charles Dickens classic tale, 'A Christmas Carol.'

No one is certain as to when the 170-year-old book was donated to the library but it was only recently discovered among other rare books.

“I did a display on winter holiday traditions,” said Kelly Brown, special collections librarian. “I pulled out 'A Christmas Carol' and I realized it’s a first edition, and I’m like oh my gosh that’s incredible.”

Six thousand copies were published in Britain on December 17, 1843 and quickly sold out in just a couple days.

Ironically, the classic took Dickens only about six weeks to write and was rushed to print.

The book hasn’t been “out of print” ever since.

It cost about 5 schillings back then which would be equal to about 20 pounds or 33 U.S. dollars today.

But everyone can see the book for free upstairs in the Special Collections Department if they bring a photo ID.

“It’s awesome," said Erica Marks. "God bless us everyone. That was heartfelt and buh-humbug.”

“There’s magic. There’s the supernatural. There’s ghosts. There’s family togetherness,” added Tim Phillips.

Dickens was inspired by his rocky childhood and also the disparity between the poor and wealthy at that time in early Victorian Era Britain.

Historians say Dickens was writing in response to some of the new Christmas traditions at that time like the introduction of greeting cards and decorating trees.

He wrote the story about a stingy old man named Scrooge as a means of highlighting the need for traditional Christmas values, family togetherness and charity.

“A tale of one man’s redemption, that is really interwoven with Victorian Christmas traditions that have morphed into what we consider our modern Christmas,” said Chris Fornadel, GreatLakes Theater.


**He started writing the story in September 1843 and completed it in less than a couple months.

**He called it a “Novella” with the original title: 'A Christmas Carol In Prose; Being a Ghost Story of Christmas.'

**He personally selected the original rose-brown, cloth cover.

**He was inspired by the poor but also needed the money himself to support a growing family.

**First-edition copies are becoming increasingly rare and sell for between $30-50,000.

**Although the book sold out in a couple days, because Dickens paid for his own publishing, he only earned the equivalent of 19,119 pounds today.

**The story was written as an indictment of 19th century industrial capitalism.

**The book was not immediately popular in America because of some other writings by Dickens which were critical of the states including, "American Notes for General Circulation."

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