A Christmas Carol by the Numbers

atkins-bookshelf-booksCharles Dickens’s beloved Christmas novella, A Christmas Carol in Prose, Being a Ghost-Story of Christmas, was published on December 19, 1843 by Chapman & Hall. The books quickly sold out and the book has never been out of print since — an impressive period of 172 years! Bookshelf takes a look at this holiday classic by the numbers:

Time it took for Dickens to write A Christmas Carol: 6 weeks
Number of words in A Christmas Carol: 28,994
Number of first editions printed: 6,000

Cost of first edition: 5 schillings (about $30 in today’s currency)
Cost of a first edition today: $18,000 to $45,000
Cost of an inscribed first edition today: about $280,000
Days it took the first edition to be sold out: 5
Number of books sold in the first year: over 15,000

Amount Dickens earned on first edition: 230 pounds (about $28,314 in today’s currency)
Size: 102 x 164 mm (approx. 4 x 6.5 inches)
Number of pages: 166 pages plus 2-page publisher’s advertisement at end
Number of color plates: 7 (3 by John Leech; 4 by W. J. Linton)
Number of ghosts: 4 (Jacob Marley’s ghost, the Ghost of Christmas Past, the Ghost of Christmas Present, and the Ghost of Christmas Past)
Number of children that Bob Cratchit had: 6 (Belinda, Martha, Peter, Timothy (Tiny Tim), and an unnamed boy and girl (Matthew and Lucy in some adaptations)
How much did Bob Cratchit earn: 15 shillings a week (rate: 3 pence an hour for 60 hours per week); in today’s dollars that would be about $94 per week or $4,888 per year.
Number of years Jacob Marley had been dead before appearing as a ghost: 7
Number of brothers and sisters that the Ghost of Present has: More than 1,800 (each representing a year)
Number of children that the Ghost of Present reveals to Scrooge: 2 (Ignorance (boy) and Want (girl))
Number of books that were Scrooge’s favorite as a young boy: 2 (Arabian Nights and Robinson Crusoe)
Number of thieves that steal from Scrooge after he is dead: 3 (charwoman, launderess, and undertaker)
Value of the original manuscript of A Christmas Carol when first sold in 1875: 50 pounds (about $5,585 in today’s currency)
Number of people in audience that attended Dickens’s first public performance of A Christmas Carol in 1853: About 2,000
Number of public performances of A Christmas Carol: 127

Read related posts: The Origin of the Name Scrooge
The Inspiration for Dickens’s A Christmas Carol
What is a First Edition of A Christmas Carol Worth?
A Christmas Carol and It’s a Wonderful Life

Words invented by Dickens
Why Read Dickens?

For further reading: A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
The Annotated Christmas Carol by Michael Patrick Hearn, Norton (2004)


2 thoughts on “A Christmas Carol by the Numbers

  1. Is there a known value known for a single copy if Christmas Carol printed in 1901 by H. M. Caldwell? I ask because I need to post it and I need an insurance value.

    • Hi Heather. I happen to own that edition. Unfortunately, it is a fairly common edition, and not particularly rare. This is based on the current value on Abe Books, selling for $25.

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