It was the Punch illustrator who provided the memorable illustrations to the early printings of A Christmas Carol, Being A Ghost Story of Christmas. The hand-coloured steel-engraved plates depicting Mr Fezzywig’s Ball, Marley’s Ghost, Scrooge’s Third Visitor and The Last of The Spirits were all Leech’s genius.
First-edition copies of A Christmas Carol, those printed by Chapman & Hall and dated 1843 to the red and blue title page, are scarce so it was remarkable that several turned up for sale together at CW Harrison & Son in Ossett, West Yorkshire, on November 25.
They were part of a cache of 11 Chapman & Hall printings of the Dickens classic (all from the 1840s but in generally poor condition) that came for sale from a local gentleman. He had carefully stored them for a number of years in his garage after inheriting them from a friend who had told him they had significant value.
Few could remember so many early printings in a single auction. They all went to bidders on thesaleroom.com.
The books were correctly catalogued but given modest expectations of under £50 apiece on account of missing plates or detached pages and boards.
But all did rather better than expected, including two versions of the 1843 printing, with the four plates and brown and gilt cloth boards detached but present (see image above), that took £1300 each.