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Charles Dickens's reading copy of Nicholas Nickleby at the Yorkshire School

Collection

Library

Object number (per part)

[lib]1001, 1971.98

Object name (per part)

book

Title

Nicholas Nickleby at the Yorkshire School

Production organisation

W.Clowes & Son

Production date

1861

Label

This ‘Short Time’ reading copy of Nicholas Nickleby at the Yorkshire School was first performed by Dickens in 1866. The story was a favourite of Dickens’s and he frequently performed it, but he required a shorter version of his original adaptation to better fit with his other readings. On this volume, he used ribbon to tie a whole chapter closed, and then carried out his usual adaptations, annotations and stage directions on the printed pages.

Other number

2590 (2009 DH object access database number)
DH591 (former object number)
CDML.1401 (Past Perfect number)
B.5 (The Catalogue of the Suzannet Charles Dickens Collection)

Acqusition history

The book was originally part of Dickens's library at Gad's Hill.
It was brought by the Comte de Suzannet from Bernard Quaritch in 1937 and a letter to the Comte from Quaritch dated 31 May 1937 is preserved with the volume.
It forms part of the Suzannet Collection.
It was donated to the Museum by the Comtesse de Suzannet in 1971.

Physical description

Red leather, half morocco, gilt lettering, bookplates and "Short Time" stamped on spine. 8vo. 71 pages (including title). It also has a green cloth slip-case olive-green morocco gilt back Bookplates of Charles Dickens, Comte de Suzannet, Lucy Wharton Drexel and Boies Penrose Hill and Gad's Hill Library label pasted in front cover and endpapers.

Object history note

A Reading Copy is a book which has been highlighted and or annotated by the reader. In Charles Dickens’s case, he edited, annotated and physically altered copies of his own works to assist him in performing his public readings. He would include stage directions for himself, and often used different coloured inks to indicate deletions or other kinds of information. Some volumes also have pages purposefully stuck together, where they were to be omitted from the performance. Dickens would eventually get select passages of his works reprinted with large margins to better allow for his notes and annotations, which he would later sell or gift to friends.


This is Dickens's personal and annotated reading copy of Nicholas Nickleby at the Yorkshire School, used by him for his public readings. Throughout there are numerous manuscript alterations, cancellations, underlinings, additions (sometimes on pasted-on slips) and marginal stage directions ("Breakfasting", "slapping the desk", etc.). The main change is the suppression of Chapter Three (describing Fanny Squeers's tea-party), Dickens having tied the pages of this chapter together with a red ribbon so that they cannot be opened.

Dickens gave the first reading of Nicholas Nickleby at the Yorkshire School in October 1861, and the reading copy used for this performance is now in the Berg Collection at the New York Public Library. Another ‘short time’ printed copy of the story is held in the Gimbel Collection at Yale University. This copy does not contain any alterations and was likely not used by Dickens.
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