Today in history... A Christmas Carol was first published

What would Christmas be like without Charles Dickens' Christmas Carol?

Today, 167 years ago, one of the greatest storytellers in the English language released a tale which has become as much a part of Christmas as the carols it was named after.

Charles Dickens' toothpick

The morality tale, featuring the curmudgeonly Ebenezer Scrooge and his redemption upon meeting three ghosts on Christmas Eve, was originally published with illustrations by John Leech.

The book was quickly met with commercial and critical success, and has since been interpreted as an indictment of 19th century capitalism.

More remarkably still, the book is credited with playing a key role in returning the Christmas to prominence in British and American culture, after each society's years of abstinence from the season of merriment.

The legacy of the story is, of course, known to everyone. But, even in 2009, the book made a world record-breaking impact on the auction block.

Earlier this year, a pre-publication copy of A Christmas Carol was placed before bidders at Christie's.

Evidently feeling festive, they pressed the price far beyond its $120,000-180,000 estimate. It eventually sold for $290,500: a world record for a Dickens book.

A collection of Dickens' works, sold for $6,710

At the same sale, a first edition copy of Bleak House sold for $134,500, more than $50,000 over its highest estimate. Meanwhile, first editions of David Copperfield and Nicolas Nickleby both sold for $158,500, nearly $40,000 and $60,000 above their top estimates, respectively.

A Christmas Carol also cropped-up at Bonhams, on December 15, in a complete set of first edition Dickens Christmas books - also including The Chimes, The Battle of Life, The Cricket in the Hearth, and The Hunted Man and the Ghost's Bargain.

Published between 1843 and 1846, the coveted set of books went for a not very Scrooge-like $6,710.

But it clearly isn't just the man's books that today's collectors are interested in. At the same Bonhams sale, Dickens' ivory and gold 60mm toothpick with retracting mechanism, engraved with Dickens' initials, sold for an even higher $9,150 - double its $3,000-5,000 estimate.


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