Le apparizioni di Natale [A Christmas Carol]. Carlo / BETTONI DICKENS, Paolo, Charles, trans.
Le apparizioni di Natale [A Christmas Carol]
“Bah! Sciocchezze!” [“Bah! Humbug!”]
First Italian Translation of Charles Dicken’s Classic A Christmas Carol
Extremely Rare First Edition
Only 3 Copies Worldwide, All in Italy
Milan, Per Borroni e Scotti, 1852.

Le apparizioni di Natale [A Christmas Carol].

8vo [14.4 x 9.1 cm], VIII pp., 9-187 pp., with (1) f. illustrated frontispiece. Quarter bound in contemporary calf and pink painted pasteboards, gold-tooled spine. Some rubbing, creasing and edgewear to binding. Moderate toning to frontispiece, elsewhere only occasional minor spotting.

Extremely rare first edition of the first Italian translation of Charles Dickens’ iconic novella A Christmas Carol. We have located just 3 institutional copies worldwide of this important witness to the early reception of Dickens on the Italian peninsula, none of which is today housed outside of Italy (see below). The translation is that of Paolo Bettoni, a tutor and author of mostly juvenile literature, and was published at the popular Milan press of Borroni and Scotti in 1852, apparently during the Christmas season (the volume’s subtitle is “A Moral Gift for the Year 1853”). An illustrated frontispiece depicts the chipper Fred greeting his uncle Ebenezer Scrooge in his study: “Giojoso Natale, mio zio, giojoso Natale!” “Bah! Sciocchezze!” [“Bah! Humbug!”], replies the miser.

Le apparizioni di Natale is not only the first Italian translation of A Christmas Carol, but indeed one of the earliest Italian translations of any of Dickens’ works. Giovanni Battista Basseggio’s notable translation of Oliver Twist appeared in 1840 (Milan, Pirotta), and, apart from this, the only translations to precede Le apparizioni di Natale were the (anonymous) translations of the short story “The Drunkard’s Death” (1845) and the Christmas novella The Chimes (1845), which both appeared in the periodical La favilla (see A. Vescovi for this history).

Bettoni’s translation of A Christmas Carol is quite faithful to the English text, only in places sidestepping passages likely to confound the average Italian reader, e.g., at the start of the book where, in reference to Jacob Marley, Dickens expounds about the odd English idiom “dead as a doornail.” At the time of this 1852 translation, Dickens was in the prime of his career, and Bettoni provides a short preface summarizing Dickens’ activity to date. He is especially interested in how Dickens captures the democratic voices (literally and figuratively) of ordinary Englishmen, which is perhaps to be expected given the popular fervor then sweeping Italy in the wake of the Revolutions of 1848. Bettoni notes Dickens’ witty reportorial work for the London Morning Chronicle and Evening Chronicle from 1833, and praises his Sketches by Boz (1836), Cricket on the Hearth (1845), Nicholas Nickleby (1838-39), Oliver Twist (1837-39), Barnaby Rudge (1841), and Dombey and Son (1846-48). Bettoni had apparently not yet read (or at least does not mention) The Old Curiosity Shop (1840-41), Martin Chuzzlewit (1842-44) or David Copperfield (1849-50). Bettoni finds that Dickens’ travelogue Pictures from Italy (1846) misses the mark. Bleak House was being published serially (1852-52) even as Borroni and Scotti were printing Le apparizioni di Natale. Hard Times (1854), Little Dorrit (1855-57), A Tale of Two Cities (1859), Great Expectations (1860-61) and Our Mutual Friend (1864-65) had not yet been written.

OCLC, KVK, and OPAC locate just 3 global copies of Le apparizioni di Natale: Biblioteca civica Leonardo Lagorio (Imperia), Biblioteca della Società operaia di mutuo soccorso ed istruzione (Pordenone), and Biblioteca del Seminario Arcivescovile (Torino).

* A. Vescovi, “The Making of a Classic: A Survey of Italian Translations,” The Reception of Charles Dickens in Europe, M. Hollington, ed., pp. 224-30; M. Praz, Storia della letteratura inglese, p. 581.

Price: $2,850.00

Status: On Hold
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