Book Review: Dickens’ Christmas Carol (Gustave Dor?) : BH

Since 1843, Charles Dickens’ special Christmas gift to the whole world, A Christmas Carol, has been delighting readers,young and old alike. Right from the start, editions of the work contained illustrations, some of which have become as instantlyrecognizable and well-loved as the story itself. Other engravings, however, were forgotten almost as quickly as they werecreated.

Among this second group are 45 illustrations by Gustave Dor? that appear in print for the first time in more than a century inDICKENS’ CHRISTMAS CAROL. Dan Malan, an authority on literary art, prepared this edition of the timeless story afterdiscovering the lost art while researching Dor?’s work. Dor?, a contemporary of Dickens, was a prolific illustrator whose workis familiar to art historians. When Malan came across a 1931 French bibliography that listed some Dor? engravings he hadnever seen, he knew that he had stumbled onto a major find. Malan finally located the sketches in a rare French magazinepublished in 1861.

Now, the illustrations again accompany the complete text of Dickens’ novella, along with other examples of Dor?’s art, and130 more illustrations of A Christmas Carol by artists such as Frederick Barnard, John Leech, and E. A. Abbey.Introductory essays of the lives and works of both the author and the illustrator make this edition the ideal volume for anyonewanting to own a copy of the classic tale. In fact, it is worth owning this edition just for a look at my favourite Dor?illustration–the figure of Marley’s ghost, both gruesome and comic, rising rigidly from the floor of Scrooge’s bedchamber andtilting over sideways so as to exit head first through a window. Echoing Tiny Tim, we should say, ‘God bless Gustave Dor? forgiving form to Dickens’ beloved characters, and God bless Dan Malan for bringing to light these images, which will surelydelight us for many Christmases yet to come.’

Dickens’ Christmas Carol, published by MCE Publishing. Available through the Publishers Distribution Service,800-345-0096. $19.95 hardcover.

Bruce Heydt

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