Residents of Malton, a market town located in North Yorkshire, banded together and raised funds for the purchase of a rare inscribed copy of Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol. A number of the characters in the classic tale, which Dickens wrote in 1843, are believed to be based upon residents of Malton. Dickens was very close friends with Charles Smithson, a respected Malton lawyer, and the author spent time in the town visiting with Smithson's family. According to local legend, Scrooge's office was even based on Smithson's office on Chancery Lane.
Dickens presented this particular copy of the novel, which at the time was in its seventh edition, to Mrs. Smithson; Charles Smithson had recently died of tuberculosis. Dickens simply inscribed the novel, "To Mrs. Smithson from Charles Dickens April 18 1844", but the book was sent with a longer note. (Over the years the letter and the book were separated and the accompanying letter now resides at the Free Library of Philadelphia.)
Writer and presenter Selina Scott, who lives near Malton, heard that the book was coming up for auction and decided that it should return to the town that helped inspire it.
"We had the vision that this book could be a touchstone for Malton and offer a lasting literary legacy for the town," Scott said.
Scott joined with local businessmen to spearhead a campaign to raise funds for the purchase and, after just two weeks, residents had chipped in $32,500 (£20,270). Unfortunately, the reserve price on the book was $40,000 (£24,950) and it was withdrawn from the auction when it failed to get a higher bid. After a week of negotiations with the seller, a price of $43,750 (£27,280) was agreed upon and the book was on its way back to Malton.
The book arrived last Friday, where it was greeted by members of the local Dickens Society, who donned full Victorian regalia and toasted with glasses of Smoking Bishop, one of Dickens's favorite beverages. It is currently on display at Castle Howard will be moved to The Talbot Hotel, where it will remain as an exhibit until January 2. After that it will be taken care of by the York University Library.