Tuesday, December 07, 2010

An Original Manuscript (not of the New Testament but) of A Christmas Carol

I love to go to the Pierpont Morgan Library at this time of year to gaze at the original manuscript of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, one page at a time. Somehow I missed the fact that last year the entire manuscript had been digitized! Here it is.

We have nothing resembling an original manuscript or papyrus fragment of the New Testament. Instead we have hundreds of copies of the text. And translations that give an unwary reader the impression that there is such a thing as a rendering of the original text.

So it is wonderful to see something entirely different: an original manuscript. And now I do not have to go to the Morgan each year to see a different page. I can examine at my leisure the first full-length novel by Charles Dickens. Look, for example at the paragraph in the final stave describing the transformation of Scrooge: there's hardly an addition or deletion in the dialogue. It is as if Dickens had the clearest idea of the language of Scrooge's transformation.

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