Rare Dickens First Editions on Exhibition in New York

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Ahead of the London sale this September, Sotheby’s New York will host highlights from Charles Dickens: The Lawrence Drizen Collection from 25-27 June. This exceptional collection includes unparalleled first editions and remarkable inscribed presentation copies. The sale comprises one of the most important libraries of Charles Dickens remaining in private hands. Click through to see the highlights that will be making the trip to New York.

Rare Dickens First Editions on Exhibition in New York

  • Charles Dickens
    Great Expectations
    First edition, first impression, 1861.
    Estimate £50,000–70,000
    An exceptional copy of the rare first issue of the first edition of Great Expectations, in which all first state points are present and in original cloth. The first edition in this state was almost entirely taken up by libraries.

    "Great Expectations ... is altogether something different. It did not come from research or the theatre but out of a deep place in Dickens's imagination which he never chose to explain...It is set, like so many of his books, in the period of his own childhood and youth...Great Expectations is not a realistic account of how the world was but a visionary novel, close to ballad or folk tale...” (Tomalin)
  • Charles Dickens
    A Christmas Carol
    Eleventh edition, first Bradbury and Evans edition, 1846.
    Presentation copy inscribed to Joseph Valckenberg, his wine merchant
    Estimate £50,000-70,000
    An outstanding presentation copy inscribed by Dickens to his wine-merchant Josef Valckenberg. The House of Valckenberg was founded in Worms on the banks of the Rhines in 1786. Throughout the next century they bottled and exported wine, supplying the royal families of Europe. In a letter to Valkenberg from the same year, Dickens praises the house’s specialty “Liebfraumilch," writing: "All I have to say on the subject of the Liebfraumilch, is, that if it should come here, I will drink in it, the heath of everybody, great and small, in that large family-house at Worms" (25 June, 1846)
  • Charles Dickens
    Bleak House
    First edition in book form, 1853.
    Dedication copy inscribed to Charles Knight
    Estimate £80,000–120,000
    Dedication copy of the first and perhaps the finest of Dickens’ great triumvirate of ‘Condition-of-England Novels’ written in the 1850s. All three novels -- the others being Little Dorrit and Hard Times -- have long endured as extraordinary works of art and highly innovative and poetic accounts of mid-nineteenth-century life, suffused with anger and dark humour. Dickens dedicated Bleak House "as a remembrance of our friendly union, to my companions in the Guild of Literature and Art". Described by Ackroyd as "an ambitious project designed to help writers 'in difficulties' with a system of annuities and pensions as well as the provision of a number of special houses…", founding members included Bulwer Lytton, Wilkie Collins, John Forster, Mark Lemon, John Tenniel and Charles Knight. This present copy is, therefore, one of a handful of dedication copies.
  • Charles Dickens
    Autograph manuscript notebook entitled “Gad’s Hill Cellar | Casks”, Dated 1870.
    Estimate £4,000–6,000
    A household inventory produced by Dickens in the days before his death, listing casks of sherry, brandy, rum, and whisky present in the cellar ("...Besides which there are 5 Gallons in Stone Jars of the Whisky, to be used first"), with an explanatory note on the inside cover ("Details of Contents of Casks in the Cellar - an account being kept on a slate in the cellar of what is drawn daily from each cask - and added together in this Book at the end of every week beginning 6th June 1870"). This document is one of the last manuscripts that Dickens wrote, and it is poignant to think of the great novelist busying himself with domestic economy in the final days of his life.
  • Charles Dickens
    Oliver Twist
    Third edition, 1841.
    Presentation copy inscribed to William Charles Macready
    Estimate £40,000–50,000
    A magnificent presentation copy inscribed by the author to one of his closest friends at Christmas 1841, just before Dickens and his wife left for America. This new edition of Oliver Twist, published on 15 May 1841, adds the author's defence against the criticism he had encountered for setting his story in London's underworld ("...I confess I have yet to learn that a lesson of the purest good may not be drawn from the vilest evil...I saw no reason, when I wrote this book, why the very dregs of life should not serve the purpose of a moral..."). The distinguished actor and theatre manager William Charles Macready (1793-1873), who dominated the English stage for more than twenty years and restored the status of the nineteenth-century English theatre, was one of Dickens's most intimate friends.
  • Charles Dickens
    American Notes for General Circulation
    First edition, 1842.
    Presentation copy inscribed to Thomas Carlyle
    Estimate £35,000–50,000
    A superb presentation copy inscribed to Dickens’ lifelong friend the day after publication. The philosopher and historian Thomas Carlyle (1795–1881) was one of Dickens' lifelong friends. They first met in the early 1840s at a dinner with the politican Edward Stanley, after which Carlyle produced a vivid description of his first impressions of the novelist: "clear blue intelligent eyes, eyebrows that he arches amazingly, large protrusive rather loose mouth - a face of the most extreme mobility..." (quoted by Tomalin, p.112).
  • Charles Dickens
    Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club
    First book edition, 1837.
    Presentation copy inscribed to Dr John Elliotson
    Estimate £80,000–120,000
    An exceptional association copy of the author’s first novel, in one of only three known copies in such an elaborate presentation binding. This copy seems to be similar to that received by John Forster from Dickens on 11 December 1837, which he recorded as "in the most luxurious of Hayday's bindings, with a note [by Dickens]: 'Chapman and Hall have just sent me... these "extra-super" bound copies of Pickwick, as per specimen enclosed. The first I forward to you, the second I have presented to our good friend Ainsworth, and the third Kate has retained for herself. Accept your copy with one sincere and most comprehensive expression of my warmest friendship" (Forster, volume 1, pp.143-4). It seems therefore that Dickens subsequently presented his wife's copy to his new friend Elliotson. Dr John Elliotson remained Dickens’ firm friend and doctor.
  • Wilkie Collins
    The Frozen Deep
    First edition, 1866.
    Author’s copy corrected by the author
    Estimate £15,000–20,000
    The author’s own corrected copy of his drama in three acts. The first edition itself is very rare, but this copy includes revised dialogue, cuts, and changes to stage directions (in total about 100 words in Collins's hand in the margins). The Frozen Deep, an arctic melodrama written in the aftermath of the Franklin expedition, was written by Collins in 1856 and first performed at Tavistock House on Twelfth Night in January 1857 to celebrate Dickens' son Charley's twentieth birthday. Dickens played the starring role of the sacrificial hero Richard Wardour, acting alongside Georgina, Mamie and Kate. "As usual with a play which passed into rehearsal under Dickens' auspices it came out improved".
  • Charles Dickens
    A Tale of Two Cities
    First book edition, 1859.
    Presentation copy inscribed to Mrs. Cowden Clarke
    Estimate £60,000–80,000
    A superb presentation copy in presentation binding of one of Dickens’ most popular novels, inscribed in the month after publication to the literary scholar and writer Mary Cownden Clarke, one time actress in Dickens’ own private theatricals. Mary Cowden Clarke had played Mistress Quickly opposite Mark Lemon's Falstaff in Dickens's production of The Merry Wives of Windsor, in which Dickens himself played the part of Shallow. In her Recollections, she recalled "What times those were! What rapturous audiences a- tiptoe with expectation..."
  • Charles Dickens
    Mrs Gamp
    Author’s own annotated reading copy, 1868.
    Presentation copy inscribed to H.M. Ticknor, his American publisher
    Estimate £50,000–70,000
    An unsurpassable annotated prompt copy used by Dickens during his American tour. This copy includes additions, underlinings and deletions in blue and brown ink. The book was inscribed and presented by Dickens to his American publisher on the night of his final reading in America. The book’s provenance, like many in the library, is also remarkable, having passed through the greatest Dickens Collections of the past 150 years, including: G.B. McCutcheon, Ida O. Folsom, Comte Alain de Suzannet, Kenyon Starling, William E. Self, and now Lawrence Drizen.
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