The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club.

London, Chapman and Hall, 1836-7.


8vo. pp. (4) (xiv) (2) 609. Extra engraved title page with the “Veller” missprint, with the early marginal note on page 9, with the “&” heading on p. 26; with the two, later discarded, Buss-plates on plate paper, and in their etched states (i.e. not lithographed copies towards the close of 1837); with the “Pickwick” misprint on p. 375; with pp. 25 and 27 both carrying signature E; with the artist’s signature missing on the illustration facing p. 89 but “N.E.M.O.” on the one facing p. 94; no page references on the plates facing pp. 342 and 370 (unmentioned in the “Directions to the Binder”); of the 4 Seymour-plates in Part I only the last (p. 17 is unsigned).

Checked with Eckel’s listing this copy should have 31 so-called “first states” of the illustrations and 12 so-called “second states”. Poul Steen Larson and Guy Mannering point out in the Et Kapitel af den illustrerede Romans Historie, pp. 271-288 that this distinction between different “states” of the plates in early English 19th century illustrated books is meaningless; as it is known from the publication of Walter Scott’s works in the late 1820s, printing plates for the slow copper-plate printing presses were duplicated so that more presses could be kept busy at the same time, simply to keep pace with the much faster letterpress printing, to satisfy growing demand for copies of novels in vogue. First, second and later so-called “states” or printing plates after ca. 1830 just indicate duplicate plates with small variations in the design, due to the necessary make-ready of the duplications before use.

This copy, obviously, has been collected and bound from the original 19 parts, as proved by the stitch-marks on the plate margins. Part I and II (pages 1-50) belong to the 2nd printing of these parts, for which the type-matter was printed from stereotype. This implies, according to the total number of copies printed (cf. Miller & Strange), that the gathering of parts constituting this copy cannot be dated later than September 1836, on the appearance of Part V; for these reasons we can be certain that Parts I and IV of this copy belong to the first 1,500 copies printed of each, and that the consecutive Parts V to XIX are all first printings. A genuine first edition of Pickwick Papers should be gathered from first printings of all the 19 parts; no such copy has ever been proved to exist.

The present copy comes so close to fulfilling the criteria that it should rightfully be described as a First Edition. Bound with the original, pictorial, green wrapper to Part XCII in green, half calf, marbles sides. The provenance of this copy is also distinguished. Until 1926 it belonged to the National Dickens Library in Charles Dickens’ house in Doughty Street, where Dickens wrote the concluding chapters of the novel. Between 1908 and 1926, Dickens’ library was deposited in the Guildhall Library, while his house was refurbished to become the “Dickens Museum”, and for security reasons all the books were stamped with the Guildhall Library seal. Remnants of the stamp on the back of the plates in this copy bear witness of its provenance. The museum opened in 1926, and Charles Dickens’ book collection was returned from Guildhall Library.

However, investigations into the matter have proved that no copy of the “Pickwick Papers” has ever been missing, neither from Dickens’ book collection, nor from the Guildhall Library! One assumption is that the copy, with other duplicates, was sold away with other duplicate copies in 1926 in order to raise money. Some foxing to a few of the plate margins, mostly inoffensive; slight marks of rubbing on the back of some plates (the Guildhall Library steal stamp); an old photograph of Charles Dickens pasted onto the inner front board, otherwise a nice copy.


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