Selina Scott with the newly purchased book. Picture: Simon Wilkinson/

If you’re not yet in a Christmassy mood, hopefully this news will put that right…

The North Yorkshire town of Malton has purchased a rare 1844 edition of Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol after a nail-biting New York auction.

The purchase of the book is part of a campaign, spearheaded by Yorkshire-born broadcaster Selina Scott to reclaim Charles Dickens for the rural market town.

Hidden from public view until now, the specially bound edition was commissioned by Charles Dickens for the wife of his great friend, lawyer Charles Smithson, after his untimely death at the age of 39.

There is a long-standing tradition that the office of Scrooge was based on Smithson’s office on Chancery Lane in Malton, and that various characters of Dickens were based upon residents of the area.

Miss Scott said, “Over the last century or so Dickens intimate association with Malton has largely been based on anecdotal evidence. I have however, discovered in the early archive of my grandfather, who was born in 1867 and was, at one stage, editor of the Malton Messenger, many references to Dickens and A Christmas Carol and Malton’s literary heritage.

“For over a hundred years it has been widely acknowledged that Dickens drew his characters like Scrooge from those he met in the town.”

A Christmas Carol is one of the world’s most seminal books, made into ten films and translated into sixty different languages, as well as inspiring a plethora of adaptations, such as Frank Capra’s, It’s a Wonderful Life.

Miss Scott said: “When this rare and remarkable book came up for auction in New York, we had to act. The whole town has come together, raiding savings and piggy banks to raise enough funds. We’re proud to have bought the ghost of Dickens’s Christmas back.”

Malton is a microcosm of a perfect Dickensian town where little has architecturally changed since Dickens first arrived in the town to stay with Charles Smithson. Smithson office in Chancery Lane is still in existence.
Many organisations and individuals backed Miss Scott’s campaign including the Hon Simon Howard, Chairman of Castle Howard Estate, Malton CIC, local tourism attraction Flamingo Land, The Malton Museums Trust, and the Malton Dickens Society.

The campaign to get the $43,750 fund together in just four weeks before the auction was led by local business man Stephen Joll and Clair Challenor-Chadwick, MD of specialist fundraising and marketing company, Cause UK.

Mr Joll said, “Dickens was a great social philanthropist, advocating education and encouraging the well-off to care for the needy. We’re planning to spread that spirit, through education, the arts, charitable initiatives and community engagement.” 
A charitable initiative linked to the book’s arrival has been launched called ‘Keeping Warm with A Christmas Carol’.

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