Victorian novelist Charles Dickens, lauded as one of the greatest novelists in history, penned such classics as A Christmas Carol, A Tale of Two Cities and Great Expectations. It’s no wonder, then, that early editions of his work can fetch hundreds of thousands of dollars at auction.
Until recently, the most expensive Charles Dickens book ever sold was a copy of A Christmas Carol auctioned in 1996 by Sotheby’s in New York. That first edition book, the time-honored story of Ebenezer Scrooge’s Christmas redemption, nabbed $160,000 for the seller.
The record now goes to another first edition, a copy of Oliver Twist. Notably, the book contains an inscription by Dickens to friend and fellow novelist William Ainsworth. The book was part of the Kenyan Starling Library owned by TV mogul William E. Self. The collection was actually a union of two collections—those of Self and rival collector Starling, who bequeathed his considerable library to Self in his will. Its hammer price of $229,000 at Christie’s in New York made it Dickens’ most expensive book ever.
Also up for auction were a Christmas presentation copy of The Old Curiosity Shop and a presentation copy of The Cricket on the Hearth. In June, another Christie’s auction will sell the desk and chair at which Dickens penned much of his work, including Great Expectations