Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Dickens for Sepia Saturday

For me there could only be one interpretation of the Books theme this week. Today, 7 February is the 200th anniversary of this man's birthday.:

Charles Dickens 1868

Source: Project Gutenberg ebook of Appreciations and Criticisms of the Works of Charles Dickens, 1911.  From a photograph by Gurney
In pride of  place on my bookshelf is a book I won as a form prize way back in 1949.

The Pickwick Papers
It so happens that I discovered Mr Pickwick and Sam Weller in an illustration which I though you might enjoy.

Wood engraving: 19th century. 
Characters from the books of Charles Dickens
(Photograph 1950 -1970 - unknown author)

The description with the photograph says, "The man seated in the chair is  Mr. Pickwick, a character from Charles Dickens’ first novel The Pickwick Papers, listening to his astute and humorous valet, Sam Weller, as he points out other characters from Dickens’ books. For example, midway up the left edge, from A Christmas Carol, are Ebenezer Scrooge in a night cap, and Bob Cratchit carrying his crippled son, Tiny Tim. In the bottom left corner, from The Old Curiosity Shop, are Little Nell and her grandfather. Fagin, from Oliver Twist, is third from the left in the front row with Mr. Bumble (in the bicorn or cocked hat), his wife Widow Corney, Oliver Twist, the Artful Dodger, and Charley Bates nearby."

I must say you need very good eyesight to make them out. There is no doubt however about who is in the next photo.

Artist Fred Barnard (1846-1896)
Title "Mr. Pickwick Picnics"
Date 1870s
  • Source: "The Anniversary Edition of the Works of Charles Dickens, February 7, 1812". The books were published in 1911 by P.F. Collier & Son of New York. This illustration is from the book, "Pickwick Papers Part I"
  • Flickr: Mr Pickwick uploaded by Sue Clark
  • License: CC BY 2.0
Today, thanks to Stockton Central Library's Facebook post I learned something new about Dickens. Apparently Dickens' study had a secret door designed to look like a bookcase which was full of fake books with titles such as Noah's Arkitecture, a nine-volume set titled Cat's Lives and The Virtues of Our Ancestors, which was so narrow that the title had to be printed vertically. Are there fake books on your shelves?
 And a final picture of the great man who ranks close behind Shakespeare in literary merit.

Charles Dickens, circa 1860

Project Gutenberg ebook of Appreciations and Criticisms of the Works of Charles Dickens
Photo by  J. & C. Watkins
As some of you may know I have been a volunteer text corrector for the Dickens Journals Online Project. They are celebrating his birthday by announcing the completion of all the correction process. You may find out about the project at

To immerse yourself in more books just click here


Marc Latham said...

Yes, a great writer, and notable landmark. Literature world and the poor were blessed with his presence. Cheers, Bob.

Liz Stratton said...

Love Dickens and your taken this theme! I've thought of using blue screen type technology to put a tidy bookshelf in the background for video chats, etc. I'm now inspired to include some fake titles. What fun!!

Karen S. said...

Oh Bob you picked a great story for Dickens, is there anyone who doesn't like him? I believe not! I posted something about him on Facebook today too, for his 200th birthday celebration.... this is one super post in tribute for him!

Little Nell said...

Well-chosen Bob. That last picture of him is a fine portrait and very different to the one we usually see. I was bought up on Dickens’ stories, but I also had to study Great Expectations for o’level. Fortunately it didn’t put me off. You ask about false books on the shelf, and yes I do have one - more on that later

tony said...

Dickens seems very apt in the current climate......Youve reminded me brother-in-law bought us this book for Christmas.I must get it down from the shelf and read it more fully.

Oregon Gifts of Comfort and Joy said...

Hi Bob, this is awesome! I learned so much. I have read some of these books, but not for a long time.

No fake books on my bookshelves, but there is a real one with a hole cut out in the middle pages.

That is so cool that you are working on that online project.

Have a great week!

Kathy M.

Postcardy said...

I think I only read the Dickens books that were assigned in school and can't really remember them now.

P.S. Your post has January in the first line instead of February.

Rosie said...

I must read some books I read when I was a little girl, I believe I would have a different take on them now that I am older. Thanks for the contribution Bob.

Bob Scotney said...

@Postcardy - thanks for pointing out my error, corrected now.

Linda said...

Excellent tribute to a great writer.

Wendy said...

I'm glad this week's theme coincided with your hero's birthday. I've learned so much. No fake books here, but I know someone who has a fake Bible that holds a gun.

Joy said...

What a great wood engraving, Dickens characters taking on a life of their own. I like the idea of Dickens sitting down and designing the secret door bookcase complete with titles, rather endearing.

Mike Brubaker said...

Some years ago I bought a complete set of Dickens at a yard sale. Leather bound pocket edition from c.1880 with ultra fine paper. Eventually the leather disintegrated from mold. This Christmas I was given a Kindle eBook and Dickens was the first author I looked for. He would be amazed how much of the world continues to love his characters and stories.

sEAN bENTLEY said...

Next to Twain, Dickens is the fella I'd like most to have to dinner.

(Queenmothermamaw) Peggy said...

Just like everyone I love Dickens. I read all the books years ago and try to find the ones on video or DVD whenever I can. I love seeing what a filmaker would do with the looks of the characters.

~Tracie~ said...

what a Great Post Bob! I read Dickens in School(many many years ago) As my hubby and I have set a goal to read one Classic novel a month I will be re visiting some of Dickens works again soon.

Linda@VS said...

It's been many, many years since I've read Dickens, but your interesting post makes me want to visit him again.

I don't have any fake books, but years ago I had a book that was nothing but blank pages. Its title was "Everything Men Know About Women."

Margaret said...

Ha! A slim book on the "Virtues of our Ancestors". What a sense of humor he had. A link from one of the commentators highlights an interesting book on Dickens life. Interesting he longed to be an actor. And what a curly beard in the first photo! Very enjoyable post and it makes me realize I need to read his books... I've only seen a few movies. Shame on me!

viridian said...

For me I needed to grow up a little to appreciate Dickens.

Janet said...

I can't say I'm a fan of Dickens, though I'll say he's a great writer. I liked this post!

Dani Jonsson Lopez said...

And the big question now is.... what was behind that fake door of books?


Christine H. said...

A perfect post for this week. I didn't know you were a volunteer text corrector. What a wonderful undertaking.

Howard said...

Great fun and fascinating as always Bob

Alan Burnett said...

Yes indeed, someone had to pay tribute to the great man this week and there can be few finer tributes than that. said...

Only really recall reading Tale of Two Cities and Great Expectations, both of which I enjoyed, and Little Dorrit, which I found incredibly hard going. Maybe it's time to try another one.