John Wilson Collections featured works

The Works of Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens (1812-1870) is one of the most important English writers. An editor of a journal, Miscellany, a contributor to newspapers and journals, a composer of plays, and an author of almost 30 books, Dickens was a prolific writer whose works continue to be popular with today's readers.

Because of the generosity of two significant donors, Genevieve Thompson Smith and Charles F. Adams, the John Wilson Special Collections include a substantial collection of early materials by Charles Dickens. Highlights include 12 first edition serial publications, an autographed signed letter (ALS), and an original steel plate used for an illustration in the first edition of David Copperfield.

The room's Dickens collection also contains several examples of fine bindings and books owned by significant earlier collectors.

Autographed Letter

The John Wilson Special Collections owns an original autographed letter from Charles Dickens to a Miss Reynolds dated January 29, 1838. Miss Reynolds evidently sent Dickens a manuscript for his approval. His response is a polite but forthright dismissal stating: "I would beg most strongly and earnestly to recommend that you endeavour to serve the friend to whom you refer, by some other means than by the exercise of your pen." The letter is preserved here in a beautiful binding by Sangorski & Sutcliffe, along with its original envelope. — 
Gift of Charles F. Adams.

print from Christmas CarolA Christmas Carol

One of Dickens' most enduring and popular stories is A Christmas Carol, first issued a few days before Christmas in 1843. The exhibit features three editions of A Christmas Carol:

A rare first edition (first issue, but with cream-colored endpapers) that includes four hand-colored etchings. — Gift of Charles F. Adams.

A signed binding by noted book designer Margaret Armstrong, published in New York and London by G. P. Putnam's Sons in 1900. — Purchased by Library Association of Portland.

An early edition illustrated by noted artist Arthur Rackham. — Purchased by Library Association of Portland.

print from David CopperfieldDavid Copperfield

The Personal History, Adventures, Experience and Observation of David Copperfield the Younger of Blunderstone Rookery (Which He Never Meant to be Published on Any Account) was first issued as most of Dickens' novels were: as monthly serial publications. Each month, an issue containing several chapters and two illustrations would be released. — Gift of Genevieve Thompson Smith and original steel plate gift of Charles F. Adams.

The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit

One of the John Wilson Special Collections editions of The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit (London: Chapman & Hall, 1844) is in full dark brown morocco by Zaehnsdorf. This copy was previously owned by Edward Huth, a British book collector whose works were sold at auction in 1923. — Gift of Charles F. Adams.

print from Little DorritLittle Dorrit

This edition of Little Dorrit (London: Bradbury & Evans, 1855-1857) is typical of Charles Dickens' serial publications. Issued in 19 monthly parts, with the final part called a double issue (XIX & XX), it began in December 1855 and was completed in June 1857. Woodblock-printed blue wrappers are typical, and each issue is filled with advertisements printed in letterpress. Usually having two illustrations, printed from steel plates, and three chapters, collectors are careful to look for complete issues with all "points," such as the white slip of paper bound before page 481. — Gift of Charles F. Adams.

Another of the John Wilson Special Collections' editions of Little Dorrit (London: Bradbury & Evans, 1857) is in full red-crushed morocco by Zaehnsdorf. It is bound from the original serial parts, with the book plate of the Earl of Mexborough, whose books were dispersed in 1917. — Gift of Charles F. Adams.

Oliver Twist; or the Parish Boy's Progress

Oliver Twist by "Boz" (London: Richard Bentley, 1838) first appeared as an installment story in the journal Miscellany, but the complete story was issued in book form in these three volumes, six months before the completion of the story in Miscellany. On display is the first edition, first issue, which features the cancelled "Fireside plate" by illustrator George Cruickshank. This plate was later replaced by the author with a different image (that, uncommonly, also appears in the John Wilson Special Collections' copy). — Gift of Charles F. Adams.

John Wilson Special Collections


Library Foundation logoDonors to The Library Foundation have generously helped Multnomah County Library expand these special collections and increase the exposure of these rare materials to the public. For more information about supporting these collections, contact Wes Breazeale at The Library Foundation.

Supported by gifts to The Library Foundation, a local nonprofit dedicated to our library's leadership, innovation and reach through private support.