Dickens' inscription to Eliza Touchet in an 1842 first issue of A Christmas Carol, sold for a record $240,000 (£144,580) at Christie's New York on December 4.

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The 1843 first issue of arguably the most widely read and best-known of Dickens' works was offered in the second and final portion of the William E. Self library of English and American literature at Christie's New York on December 4, where it took $240,000 (£144,580).

One of several books that once formed part of the magnificent Dickens collection of Alain de Suzannet, sold in 1971, this was one of the earliest recorded presentation copies.

It was slightly "leaned" or bent and the text block was split at the centre, but it was one of a group of eight copies that Dickens is known to have signed on December 17, 1843.

The other lucky recipients of this first batch included his friend and patron, Baroness Burdett-Coutts, and William Makepeace Thackeray.

This copy was given to Mrs Eliza Touchet, an older cousin of the writer Harrison Ainsworth. Following Ainsworth's separation from his wife, Mrs Touchet acted as hostess when he was entertaining - as he did very frequenty and boisterously at his home at Kensal Lodge, near Willesden.

In such company, which also regularly included the artists Daniel Maclise and George Cruikshank, as well as such distinguished figures as Disraeli and Edward Bulwer, Eliza could hold her own. She was known for her sharp tongue and brilliant conversation.

More significant for the man who sent her the book, it was at one of these gatherings in the 1830s that John Macrone first expressed an interest in publishing Sketches by Boz, the work that launched Dickens' brilliant career.

By Ian McKay