By Lisa Terech, Community Engagement
Everyone has their own holiday traditions – for some, it’s making holiday treats, for others, it might be putting up seasonal decorations on a certain day, or by a certain time.
Me, I try to read A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens, every year. The short novella makes for the perfect seasonal read at some point in December. Because of this, it is understandable why this particular artefact caught my attention.
In the Oshawa Museum collection is this book, A Christmas Carol. What makes this artefact unique is its size – it measures 5.5cm by 4cm.
According to the Miniature Book Society, there are several reasons for producing miniature books, although convenience seems to be a popular reason. Mini books could be easily carried in waistcoats or in reticules. The MBS asserts the standard for a miniature book “is no more than three inches in height, width, or thickness,” and by this measure, our book can be classified as ‘Miniature.’
Our mini was published in 1904 and contains the text of Charles Dickens’ classic ghost story of Ebeneezer Scrooge and how his entire life was changed one Christmas Eve through visiting his past, present, and future. The book is 350 pages, printed on India paper (or bible paper) and contains seven illustrations that appear in the original publication.
A Christmas Carol was written in 1843. It was Dickens’ novella that helped Americans embrace the Christmas holiday by associating children and good will with the holiday, in essence changing Christmas from the rowdy city celebrations to private family matters. He wrote the story after a visit to a Ragged School. Dickens hoped the story would raise the profile of London’s poor and generate some much needed cash for him. He finished the manuscript in six weeks, and within five days, the entire first printing (6000 copies) sold out.
In today’s culture, the time for ghosts and spirits is long past, with Halloween taking place almost two months ago, but in the Victorian era, Christmas was the time to tell ghost stories, and perhaps Dickens’ tale is one of the most prolific and enduring. The story opens as follows,
“Marley was dead: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. The register of his burial was signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker, and the chief mourner. Scrooge signed it: and Scrooge’s name was good upon ‘Change, for anything he chose to put his hand to. Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail.”
Dickens let his reader know right off the bat what tone his story was going to take, and the reader was immediately drawn in, wanting to know more about Marley and why the fact of his certain death was so important. The ghostly story unfolds, and readers follow Scrooge along on his journey of self reflection and change.