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“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”

DICKENS, CHARLES. A Tale of Two Cities

London: Chapman and Hall, 1859

Original red cloth (first binding). Joints very slightly tender, light soiling. A very handsome copy in original, unrestored condition. Half morocco case.

FIRST EDITION, FIRST BINDING, FIRST PRINTING (with page 213 mis-numbered 113 and sig. b present on the list of illustrations, points that were corrected in later copies of this edition).

A Tale of Two Cities is one of Dickens’s greatest and most-quoted novels. “The force of the novel springs from its exploration of darkness and death but its beauty derives from Dickens’s real sense of transcendence, from his ability to see the sweep of destiny . . . this is what emerges most clearly from one of his shortest and most powerful novels” (Ackroyd).

Dickens was emotionally vested in this great novel. He wrote, “It has had complete possession of me; I have so far verified what is done and suffered in these pages as that I have certainly done and suffered it all myself.”  The quality and strength of the prose is some of the finest he was ever to produce, for example, “It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to, than I have ever known.”

This is the best copy we have seen. The novel’s serialization in Dickens’s weekly All the Year Round reduced the demand for the book and parts issues, and thus collectible copies are scarce.

Provenance: Mrs. J. Insley Blair, Sotheby’s, New York, 3 December 2004, lot 140.