2018 marks the 175th anniversary of the beloved Charles Dickens story, A Christmas Carol. The book has been illustrated countless times over the many years and for the last couple of those years I’ve brought you a look at different editions here.

I thought it fitting to once again circle around the fireplace, my dear Muddy Colors readers, and tell a ghost story of Christmas.

Well! Hope you’ve got something nice to drink because I’ve searched far and wide to bring you yet another look at the story through the eyes of different illustrators. I’ve included some favorites from my posts over the years as well as some new (new to me, anyhow!) versions.

As I’ve said before, though the story has been brought to life so many times, one thing in particular that emerges for the student of illustration is the unlimited and boundless ways to approach any given scene. From the apparition of Jacob Marley to the shattering vision of Scrooge’s own death, the illustrative solutions are endless.


John Leech. The original illustrated edition. 1843.

It’s always fitting to begin at the beginning and see what the original audience would have seen.

I have to wonder if Leech ever wondered what future illustrators would do with the characters and moments he envisioned. Each subsequent edition of the story owes a debt to John Leech.


Greg Hildebrant. 1983.

Hildebrant needs no introduction around Muddy Colors, I’m sure so, I’m going to get out of the way and just let you see the powerful, commanding work.



Harold Furniss. 1910.

English writer and illustrator, Harold Furniss was the author of nearly 30 books (as well as amazingly named autobiography, The Confessions of a Caricaturist). It’s interesting to note, this collection of Dickens’ Christmas stories appears to be his last commissioned project, though Furniss would go on to write and illustrate his own work for another 15 years.


Drew Struzan. 1992.

Oh fine, so it’s a little bit of cheat to include this one but I don’t want to hear a one of you complaining. While it’s not an illustrated edition, the legendary Drew Struzen lends his powers to Kermit and the gang to help bring their own particular vision of the story to life.

Interesting side note, I got the chance to visit Mr. Struzan at his home studio a number of years back and this piece was there! It had just been on display at a show and there it was, wrapped in some plastic, leaned against the wall.

He noted that they changed some things around from his original. I think Kermit’s been enlarged a little, something like that. I’m not sure exactly because about a second later I was completely distracted by his original Luke Skywalker prop lightsaber.



Arthur Rackham. 1915.
No talk about A Christmas Carol would be complete with Arthur Rackham’s beautifully illustrated edition.

It’s sobering to think of Rackham working through these illustrations during 1915, the second year of The Great War. I checked my copy of Arthur Rackham: A Life with Illustration by James Hamilton to see what, if anything, was noted about this time in his life.This was the first Dickens story Rackham had attempted, and despite its ghostliness, and the opportunities for the supernatural that story presents for its illustrator, Rackham did not exploit these to the full. … It’s as if, in choice of his subjects, he voluntarily passed by the opportunity to terrify his readers with too many ghosts and images of retribution, and chose instead to calm them with pictures of sliding on the ice in smoky London, dancing with Mrs. Fezziwig and children bouncing about on Christmas Eve. Perhaps caught by the national anxiety and tragedy of wartime, Rackham voluntarily softened his interpretation of Dickens’ story in a way he might not have done eight or ten years earlier – or indeed twenty years later with Poe’s Tales.

Despite that, as you can see, I chose the spookiest ones to include here. There’s some top-notch grumpy old man face Rackham on display. I mean, just look at that Scrooge nose.
Mark Summers. 2003.
When I was in my late teens, I remember seeing Mark Summer’s work for the first time all over my local Barnes and Noble. I’m not sure I’d ever quite seen anything quite like it before and the larger than life classical literary images stuck in my mind. I’ve enjoyed Mark’s design and sensibilities ever since and his version of A Christmas Carol is no exception.


Quentin Blake. 1995.

Somehow, and I am sorry to say so, I had no idea that Quentin Blake had illustrated a version of A Christmas Carol. The inimitable illustrator of dozens upon dozens of books brings his wholly unique and unmatched abilities to bear upon the text with such freshness and life.


P. J. Lynch. 2006.
One of the more recently illustrated editions on this list is by the prolific Irish illustrator P. J. Lynch. This is a truly beautiful collection by a living legend.
If that final piece of Scrooge playing in the snow doesn’t lift your heart, well, I’m sorry to say that you might actually be dead: to begin with.

Michael Foreman. 1983.
I love the way the illustrator of 200-some books and multiple Kate Greenaway Medal winner, Michael Foreman, explains his approach: “I keep trying to make things more real, not in a literal photographic sense, but in an emotional sense, telling a story by capturing the essence of the situation, giving it some meaning.”
That rings true here in his depiction Scrooge’s face who must confront the reality of of Ignorance and Want.
Carter Goodrich. 1996. 
Once again I’ll close with Goodrich. As before, I know I’m showing my hand here by posting this as the final one so I’ll just come out and say it: This is my favorite illustrated edition of A Christmas Carol. 
If you haven’t happened to have seen it, I’m not exaggerating when I say that every single piece in this book is a masterclass in design, storytelling, and composition. The warmth and life of the characters, the glowing color and impeccable values, the despair and joy written on Scrooge’s old face…
I’m in absolute awe every time I crack it open.




From the original illustrated edition in 1843 to more contemporary visualizations, one thought reaches across the years: we need the ghostly and redemptive tale of Ebenezer Scrooge. It entranced audiences 175 years ago and it haunts us still today.