The most successful of them was a first of a work whose title is not among those that would come first to mind.
Sold for a low-estimate £40,000 by Bonhams (27.5/26/20/14.5% buyer’s premium) in London, it was a copy of American Notes for General Circulation that Dickens inscribed for the historian Thomas Carlyle only a day after Chapman & Hall issued it in October 1842.
The two men held each other in high esteem. Dickens also dedicated Hard Times to Carlyle, while his Tale of Two Cities was inspired by Carlyle’s study of the French Revolution and researched under his guidance.
In a 2011 biography, Claire Tomalin wrote that Dickens praised many US public institutions but attacked the hypocrisy and venality of the American press. He also commented unfavourably on many aspects of American social life, notably the widespread habit of spitting in public, and, predictably, he denounced slavery at some length.
“American Notes sold well but attracted little favourable comment in Britain… and, unsurprisingly, it met with a very hostile reception in the American press”, wrote Tomalin.
This inscribed copy was sold twice by New York’s Anderson Galleries in the early years of the last century, but it was as recently as 2019 that it was offered at Sotheby’s, as part of the Lawrence Drizen collection. It sold on that occasion for £38,000.
Other highlights included a 1653 first of Walton’s Compleat Angler at £27,000 and a five-volume, first-edition set of Gould’s Birds of Great Britain of 1862-73, at £50,000.