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Charles Dickens's reading copy of 'The Story of Little Dombey'



Object number (per part)

[lib]997, 1971.1.100

Object name (per part)



Little Dombey
The Story of Little Dombey

Production person

Charles Dickens

Production organisation

Bradbury & Evans

Production date



Charles Dickens first performed 'The Story of Little Dombey' in 1858, and it’s popularity led him to perform it for the rest of his public reading career. While this copy is not the first version of 'Little Dombey' Dickens adapted for public reading by annotating the text and adding stage directions. Dickens made major deletions by painted out text with red watercolour, and in one place the text has been cut up and new manuscript copy pasted in. This is undoubtedly the reading copy he used the most.

Other number

CDML.1394 (Past Perfect number)

Acqusition history

The book was originally part of Dickens's library at Gad's Hill.
Purchased by the Comte de Suzannet at the Cortlandt Bishop sale in April 1938.
It forms part of the Suzannet Collection.
It was donated to the Museum by the Comtesse de Suzannet in 1971.

Physical description

Notes in black and blue ink, portions painted out, printed text cut and pasted. 8vo 121 pages (no title page) red half morocco gilt in a cloth slip-case olive-green morocco gilt back Bookplates of Dickens and Cortlandt Bishop and a Gad's Hill label pasted inside front cover.

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.

Charles Dickens’s personal reading copy of The Story of Little Dombey. The text had been carefully worked over by him, once in a black and once in blue ink, major deletions have been painted out with red water colour, and in one place the printed text has been cut up and new manuscript copy pasted in. Throughout, there are profuse manuscript alterations written in the margins, much underlining of words to be emphasised, and at least one-stage-direction. The cover contains Charles Dickens’s Gad’s Hill bookplate.

This copy was purchased by the Comte de Suzannet at the Cortlandt bishop sale in April 1938. With it is preserved a letter to the Comte from the American Art Association, Anderson Galleries Inc., dated 13 November 1935, concerning their preparation of the sale catalogue of Bishop's library, and one page of a further letter from the Associate giving more details about the reading copies to be featured in the sale; also a cutting from The Times of 20 September 1940, describing the presentation of the Howe Collection (including several of Dickens's reading-copies) to New York Public Library by Dr. Albert Berg.
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