Who knows how many are left in the world, and I have one in my hands, right now! (Well, in truth, I had to put it down in order to type this…) It’s a double-first, of sorts.
In 1859, Charles Dickens won an argument with his publisher that had gone to court, and as a result, he started his own magazine. It was a weekly journal that he called “All the Year Round.” He imagined it as a literary paper, and found a quote from Shakespeare to supply the name for his new enterprise. In OTHELLO, Wild William had a passage that went: The Story of Our Lives from Year to Year – All the Year Round.
Dickens put it on the masthead of his first issue, which was dated Saturday, April 30, 1859.
And that was the issue that was in my hand before I set it down to type. Issue No. 1 – right there under the name of Charles Dickens.
I’m enough of a history nut that I imagine what was going on when these pages came off the press and were delivered to his subscribers. The US Civil War was still years in the future. Braum’s Concerto in D-minor hit the Top 10 in new releases. The elevator was invented, so folks could finally reach the upper floors.
And on July 11, A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens – was published.
In July. But here in my hands (I picked it back up, but I’m setting it back down again…), is/was the very first printed version of that epic Dickens work, having made its April debut in the premier edition of his new journal.
So. It is the Number One issue of the new magazine, containing the introduction of his new novel-to-be.
A Tale of Two Cities was serialized with a chapter or part of a chapter appearing each week in the journal. It was through his subscribers that Dickens was able to make a living while continuing the writing process. Subscribers not only got first crack at the story – as an added bonus, when the story was concluded the collected chapters could be dropped by Chapman and Hall publishers to be bound into a single volume.
A great addition to any home library!
An average first edition (in book form, as opposed to bound from subscriber chapters) can be found in the neighborhood of $4000. And I suppose the TRUE first edition is the copy issued as an entire book.
In the meantime though (and since I’m not likely to ever own a true First Edition copy), I’ll have to be satisfied with having a copy of the first PRINTED edition of the story in my hands (okay, technically – on the desk to my left) along with Issue No. 1 of ALL THE YEAR ROUND. Geek fun for Dickens fans.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was at the bookstore that serves lunches…
Booksellers & Irish Bistro
122 South Main St. Broken Arrow OK!