Monday, May 26, 2008

Andersen Association Copy Found

Among the books available at next month's London Antiquarian Book Fair will be an interesting copy of Charles Dickens' Pictures from Italy (second edition, 1846). This one is inscribed by Dickens on the half-title: "Hans Christian Andersen / From His friend and admirer / Charles Dickens / London Jul. 1847." It was one of twelve presentation copies given to Andersen by Dickens during the Dane's first trip to England in 1847.*

Its current seller, David Brass, says of the book "This is the greatest Dickens discovery since I’ve been in the rare book business, over 40 years. It is a legendary literary artefact. I feel like Indiana Jones. It’s like finding the Lost Ark but without the curse, aggravation and people trying to kill you."

The Dickens-Andersen connection prompted The Times' Dalya Alberge to write a short piece (basically lifting from Brass' excellent description of the book) on the relationship between the two authors, which soured after Andersen came to visit the Dickens family at Gad's Hill in 1857 ... and stayed for five weeks! "Dickens dropped polite hints that he should leave, but they were, perhaps, too subtle. After he finally left, Dickens wrote on the mirror in the guestroom: 'Hans Andersen slept in this room for five weeks — which seemed to the family AGES!'" Dickens' daughter recalled that their houseguest "was a bony bore, and stayed on and on."

Brass' price tag: $150,000 - but for this copy of this book, with such an excellent story, the sky's the limit.

*Brass details the fates of the twelve presentation copies: "Four were bequeathed to the Royal Library, Copenhagen, and seven were later sent to auction. Of those seven auctioned copies, only five have been accounted for: at Dickens' House, London; the Free Library in Philadelphia; a copy ultimately presented in 1956 to the Andersen Museum, Odense; the Webster. Currie copy; and that at Sotheby's sale LN8412, lot 111. Only nine of the twelve copies are thus recorded. The copy under notice is one of the three 'lost' copies."