I made my annual pilgrimage to the Morgan Library to view my two favorite pieces of holiday ephemera; the original handwritten manuscript for A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens and a first edition that includes the hand-colored plates. They display a different page from the manuscript each year. Interestingly, the original manuscript makes no mention of whether or not Tiny Tim lives. That line was added at the printers.
Much to my complete annoyance, the first edition was NOT on display this year. I asked the docent what the dillio was and she had no answers for me. But the manuscript is pretty cool. He wrote that story in a six week burst of creativity and panic. He was near bankrupt and needed the money for Christmas and to maintain his lavish lifestyle. It was a commercial venture.
Here’s my favorite plate from the first edition. It’s Mr. Fezziwig’s ball. I hope those idiots have the good sense to put it back on display next year.
If you click here, you can see high resolution scans of the manuscript. The handwriting is barely legible. (Seems to only work with Internet Explorer. Move your cursor over the post-it note and the written text is interpreted for you.)
I also visited Morgan’s Gutenberg bible. It’s the first book ever printed on movable type. Prior to that, it was all quills, ink wells and parchment. There aren’t many of Gutenberg bibles left (perhaps 50) and the Morgan Library has three! Over the centuries, many of the copies were disassembled and the pages (leaves) were sold. After the Morgan Library, I walked up 5th Avenue to the New York Public Library on 42nd and guess what!? THEY had a Gutenberg bible on display as well! That means that FOUR Gutenberg bibles are within six blocks of one another. Is this a great town or what?!
At the Morgan, there was also an exhibit of Jane Austin first editions, manuscripts and letters. I tried to take it in but I was never interested in her books so the exhibit fell flat for me.