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A copy of Charles Dickens's reading copy of Sikes and Nancy



Object number (per part)

[lib]6688, 1971.1.104

Object name (per part)



Sikes and Nancy, a Reading.

Production person

Dickens, Charles

Production date



Dickens first performed Sikes and Nancy in 1868. He later extended the text he used for his original reading, reprinted it, and gave a copy to actress Adeline Bilington. She transcribed Dickens’s annotations and stage directions into her copy, and used it to give her own reading of the Sikes and Nancy in 1872, two years after Dickens’s death.

Acqusition history

Given by Charles Dickens to actress Adeline Billington, who gave it to John Hollingshead, who passed it on to Sir Henry Irving.
It was sold in the Irving sale at Christie's in May 1906.
The Comte de Suzannet purchased it at the Sotheby's in July 1937.
It forms part of the Suzannet Collection, and was donated to the Museum by the Comtesse de Suzannet in 1971.

Physical description

8vo. 47 pages (including title) red half morocco gilt in a cloth slip-case, olive-green morocco gilt back Bookplates of Sir Henry Irving and Herbert S. Leon.

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 volume is a copy of the Sikes and Nancy reading copy owned by Dickens; this version was copied from the original (now lost) by the actress Adeline Billington who borrowed Dickens’s copy around 1868.

This volume is accompanied by a copy of the 1921 reprint of Sikes and Nancy edited by J.J. Stonehouse and published by Henry Sotheran & Co. (no. 6 of a limited edition of 275 copies); a four-page pamphlet entitled Mr. Charles Dickens's Farewell Readings, printed by J. Mallett, undated, which preprints a selection of newspaper reviews of Dickens's performance of Sikes and Nancy; and a manuscript check-list of the Dickens Reading Editions.

The Dickens House Library includes one other copy (lacking title-page and cover) of the revised edition of the Sikes and Nancy reading. This was given by Dickens's daughter, Mary, to John Billington (husband of Adeline) and, after passing through various hands, was acquired by the artist George W. Morrow who presented it to the Dickens House in May 1947.
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