Dickens signed David Copperfield displays author's superstitious nature

A first edition of David Copperfield, which a superstitious Charles Dickens signed in 1851, is coming to Christie's Valuable Printed Books and Manuscripts auction in London on June 13.

Dickens inscribed his personal copy, valued at £30,000-50,000, for the knife and tool manufacturer Brookes of Sheffield in May 1851.

Dickens had previously written to the firm, explaining that the inclusion of a company named Brooks of Sheffield in his 1850 novel was purely a coincidence.

Brookes in turn presented Dickens with a case of cutlery, prompting Dickens to "pay" them with the inscribed copy from his own library, in acknowledgement of an old superstition that when a knife is given as a gift, the relationship between the two parties will be severed.

Charles Dickens David Copperfield
Dickens feared an old superstition might come true


Accompanying the lot is a letter from Dickens to Brookes, apologising for the delay in sending the book.

It is just one of two signed presentation copies of the book to have appeared at auction in the past 35 years.

Regular first editions of the novel can change hands for as little as £1,000. This unique edition, from Dickens' own collection, will have collectors willing to pay far greater sums.

We are currently in the 200th year since Dickens' birth, and amid the major exhibitions and celebrations, we anticipate interest in his collectibles, and subsequently their values, to rise significantly.

In 2009, Christie's New York sold a pre-publication presentation copy of A Christmas Carol, one of just eight known, for $290,500, 61.3% up on its $180,000 high-end estimate - a world record for a Dickens book.

The value of Dickens handwritten signed letters rose from £795 ($1,250) in 2000 to £3,950 ($6,200) in 2011, at a rate of 15.69% pa, according to the PFC40 Autograph Index.

Our experts have sourced a handwritten, signed letter by Dickens, written in 1866.

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