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Charles Dickens (1812-1870)

Dickens Centenary Stamps
Dickens on the 1912 Centenary Testimonial Stamps

The Charles Dickens Author Collection in the Mahn Center for Archives and Special Collections contains over 200 works by and about Dickens. Materials range from original serial installments of his novels to various other editions to Dickens-related ephemera.


  • At the beginning in his writing career, Dickens submitted several short works to various magazines and newspapers under the pseudonym “Boz.”
  • In 1836, these were compiled into his first novel, Sketches by “Boz.”
  • Dickens was also the editor of a magazine, Bentley’s Miscellanyin which he originally published his novel Oliver Twist.
  • He later went on to edit two other literary magazines, Household Words and All the Year Round.

The Serial Novel

Dickens Rare Print Collection
A playbill from the Tavistock House Theatre, owned by Dickens. This playbill features “The Frozen Deep” on which Dickens collaborated.
  • Dickens pioneered the sale of books in the form of monthly installments.
  • Installments were typically 32 pages in length and were filled with advertisements, illustrations, and usually 3 or 4 chapters of text.
  • Unlike modern readers, readers of serial novels would often have to wait over a year for all of the installments to be printed.
  • This PBS video clip showcases a serial version of one of Dickens’ most famous novels, David Copperfield.
  •  In addition to David Copperfield, the Mahn Center has original serial installments for 9 other Dickens Novels, including Bleak HouseThe Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick ClubMaster Humphrey’s ClockMartin ChuzzlewitDombey & SonEdwin DroodOur Mutual FriendLittle Dorrit, and Nicholas Nickleby.
  • He owed his fame to the affordability of his novels; at a price of 1 Shilling per installment, even members of the lowest class could afford to read Dickens.
  • Dickens went on several tours throughout Europe and America, delivering speeches and reading excerpts from his most beloved novels.

In the Theater

  • Besides being a renowned author, Dickens was also heavily involved in the theater.
  • He even owned his own theater house, “Tavistock House Theater,” in which he showed amateur plays.
  • He worked with his close friend and fellow author and playwright Wilkie Collins, producing plays such as “The Frozen Deep” together.

Dickens’ Visits to Ohio

  • Dickens made visits to several Ohio towns in his first visit to America, as detailed in his 1842 account, American Notes:
    • He made his way from Pittsburgh to Cincinnati, later writing “Cincinnati is a beautiful city; cheerful, thriving, and animated.”
    • From Cincinnati he traveled on to Kentucky, and as far as St. Louis, but later returned to Ohio. He took a stagecoach from Cincinnati to Columbus, and then to Sandusky and Lake Erie.
    • Finally, he left Ohio and visited Niagara Falls.
  • He also further examined and critiqued American life in some of his letters, which were compiled and combined with excerpts from American Notes and published as Boz on America.

Legacy in Ohio

  • 100 years after Charles Dickens passed through the small town of Marion, Ohio, The Marion Branch of the Dickens Fellowship held their first meeting, Friday, October 23rd, 1942.
  • The Dickens Fellowship is a society devoted to the love of Dickens novels, his plays, and his characters.
  • The Mahn Center holds a great number of pamphlets from the Marion Branch (as well as the Philadelphia Branch), and a handwritten journal kept by the founder of the Marion Branch, Dr. Edward Ellsworth Hipsher.
Dickens Marion Inaugural Cover
Dickens Marion Inaugural Back
Dickens Marion Inaugural Spread
A pamphlet from the First Meeting of the Marion, Ohio Branch of the Dickens Fellowship.­


For more information about the Charles Dickens Author Collection or the Mahn Center for Archives and Special Collection, please contact Miriam Intrator.

Page created by Kevin Dennis, ENG 4940 Research Apprenticeship, Spring 2015