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Senate House Library acquires rare illustrated Dickens work

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Senate House Library acquires rare 1848 edition of Dickens' The Old Curiosity Shop with 34 original Victorian pen & ink illustrations by James Campbell, "the most Dickensian of the Pre-Raphaelites".

Senate House Library has acquired a rare copy of the first cheap edition of Charles Dickens' The Old Curiosity Shop from 1848, featuring 34 original Victorian pen and ink drawings.

The illustrations were created by Liverpool artist James Campbell (1828-1893), known as the "most Dickensian of the Pre-Raphaelites" for his depictions of working-class life. His drawings for The Old Curiosity Shop feature several of Little Nell and two of the heads and shoulders of multiple personalities in the novel. They end graphically with “The old man dead”.

The acquisition from April 2024 complements the library's extensive Dickens collection, which was started by book collector Sir Louis Sterling and includes first and fine editions of all the author's major works, in addition to three novels in their initial parts and portfolios of Dickens illustrations.

Dr Karen Attar, Curator of Rare Books and University Art, said: “I am thrilled by the acquisition for its originality, its splendid fit into the collections, and the potential to share the unpublished art digitally for the benefit of scholarship.”

This particular copy originally belonged to a Liverpool gentleman who gifted it in 1883, noting "his appreciation of the peculiar artistic pen and ink illustrations."

Bound with the novel is one of the original serialised parts, with advertisements on the wrappers. One of these is for Heal & Son’s Bedding Manufactory, “opposite the Chapel, Tottenham Court Road”, just a short walk from Senate House.

Illustrations of characters from The Old Curiosity Shop
Illustration of Nelly Trent and her grandfather

1848 edition of The Old Curiosity Shop, with illustrations by James Campbell.