Charles Dickens: Journalist, Novelist, and – Actor?

Most know Charles Dickens as a great novelist, with a style so distinctive that it now bears his name. But Dickens fans might celebrate him for very different achievements, save for one bad cold.

Drama and theater played an important role in Dickens’ life from an early age. As a small and somewhat sickly boy, Dickens was unable to participate in athletic activities. Instead, he spent his time playing games of make-believe with friends, putting on magic lantern shows, and performing comic songs, sometimes alone, and sometimes with his older sister Fanny. The two even performed publicly at the Mitre tavern in Rochester, a neighboring town to Chatham, where the Dickens family lived during Dickens’ early years.

Due to his family’s difficult financial circumstances, in 1827, at the age of fifteen, Dickens left school to work as a solicitor’s clerk. However, in 1828 he left this position in hopes of making a career as a journalist. He taught himself the Gurney system of shorthand, and began to get some work with his uncle’s paper, the Mirror of Parliament. Journalism was not the only career that Dickens considered, though. Knowing that he had true talent as a performer, he obtained an audition at Covent Garden in the spring of 1832. He never attended the audition, however, due to a bad cold.

But though Dickens may have missed his chance to become a professional actor, he never lost his love of performing. Whether he was organizing amateur theatricals at his parents’ home or giving public readings of passages from his novels, Dickens seemed to always find some way to perform on a stage. It is fitting, then, that one of Dickens’ first published literary works revolves around family theatricals. “Mrs. Joseph Porter, ‘Over the Way’” tells the story of a private play staged by the Gattleton family of Clapham Rise. Witty and satirical, the tale also demonstrates Dickens’ great talent for crafting unforgettable characters. The true stars of the story (though they never once appear on the Gattleton family stage), are the Gattletons’ Uncle Tom and their notorious neighbor, Mrs. Joseph Porter. Uncle Tom, a Shakespeare devotee who has memorized “all the principal plays of Shakespeare from beginning to end,” unwittingly plays into Mrs. Porter’s scheme to sabotage the production, leading to disaster for the actors but much hilarity for their audience (and readers).


“Mrs. Joseph Porter, ‘Over the Way’” first appeared in print in January 1834 in the London Monthly Magazine. However, the Rare Book & Manuscript Library’s copy of the tale actually comes from the 26 August 1834 issue of Waldie’s Select Circulating Library, printed by Adam Waldie in Philadelphia. It is very likely that this printing is a piracy; due to a lack of any copyright agreement between the United States and Great Britain, American newspapers commonly pirated the works of British authors. In his History of American Magazines, Frank Luther Mott describes the situation thusly:

“[Newspaper printers] would have their messengers awaiting the steamships to board them before they docked, and receive the earliest copies of the new English novels; they would then rush the books into type by working large forces of typesetters night and day, and within twenty-four hours would have them on the streets . . . And the purchaser of a G. P. R. James or Dickens novel in eighty closely-printed quarto pages would forget the injury to his eyes in the saving to his pocketbook” (Mott 360).

Dickens spoke about piracy several times during his first visit to the United States in 1842; nevertheless, it was not until 1891, with the passing of the International Copyright Act in the United States, that any provisions existed for the protection of foreign authors’ works.


The Select Circulating Library version of “Mrs. Joseph Porter” is notable not just for its shady background. According to Richard Gimbel, a notable book collector whose Dickensiana collection now resides at Yale University’s Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, the piracy also represents the first American printing of any of Dickens’ work. The Rare Book & Manuscript Library is fortunate to have such a unique item, and we are grateful to the James M. & Mary Marsh Givens Library Endowment Fund for making the acquisition possible. Mary Marsh Givens earned a BA in English Education from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1951, and a master’s degree from San José State University in 1981. She and her husband James established the fund in 1990. The fund provides for the acquisition of materials by Charles Dickens as well as Dickensiana—that is, materials related to Dickens and his work. Thank you, Mary and James, for your support both of the Rare Book & Manuscript Library and of Charles Dickens! BS

Interested in learning more about the pirating of printed works? Make sure to visit our Fall 2015 Exhibit, Pirates of the Press, opening September 18th.

[Dickens, Charles.] “Mrs. Joseph Porter, ‘Over the Way.'” Waldie’s Select Circulating Library, August 26, 1834.


Mott, Frank Luther. A History of American Magazines 1741-1850. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1939. Print.

Post, David G. “Some Thoughts on the Political Economy of Intellectual Property: A Brief Look at the International Copyright relations of the United States.” David G. Post: Research & Writing. Temple University Beasley School of Law. September 2014. Web. 14 May 2015.

Slater, Michael. “Dickens, Charles John Huffam (1812–1870).” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2014. Web. 14 May 2015.

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Suffragette City

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Congress proposed the Nineteenth Amendment in June 1919. To commemorate this event, we are looking at a important book, Jailed for Freedom, by suffragist Doris Stevens.

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Born in 1892 in Nebraska, Doris Stevens attended Oberlin College and briefly worked as a social worker and teacher before joining the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA). When the National Woman’s Party (NWP) was formed in 1916, she served on the executive board. In January of 1917, members of the NWP took their cause to the gates of the White House where they hoped to ultimately sway President Woodrow Wilson on the issue of voting rights. They protested six days a week for almost two-and-a-half years, acquiring the nickname “Silent Sentinels” for their mute method of protesting. At first the picketers were tolerated, but when the United States formally entered World War I just a few months later, they were criticized by some as being unpatriotic and distracting from the war effort. Stevens strongly believed that the protests should not stop for the war, and felt that it was hypocritical of Wilson to champion democracy overseas while denying it to half of American citizens at home.

In July of that year, law enforcement began to arrest protesters, ostensibly for obstructing traffic. Stevens herself was arrested and sentenced to sixty days in the Occoquan Workhouse in Washington, D.C. She served three and when released, dedicated herself to publicizing the inhumane treatment of NWP members serving longer sentences. Activists like Lucy Burns were given spoiled food, beaten by prison guards, subjected to solitary confinement, and force-fed when they continued to protest via hunger strikes. Stevens called the treatment “administrative terrorism.” The prisoners were finally released in late November 1917.

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Stevens reports in Jailed for Freedom: “Immediately following the release of the prisoners and the magnificent demonstration of public support of them, culminating at the mass meeting recorded in the preceding chapter, political events happened thick and fast” (248). In September 1918, Wilson came out in support of women’s suffrage, framing it, incidentally, as vital to the war effort. The war, he said, “could not have been fought, either by the other nations engaged or by America, if it had not been for the services of women–services rendered in every sphere–not merely in the fields of effort in which we have been accustomed to see them work, but wherever men have worked and upon the very skirts and edges of the battle itself.” He told Congress that, “the extension of suffrage to women as vitally essential to the successful prosecution of this great war of humanity in which we are engaged …”

RBML holds a first edition of Jailed for Freedom, wherein Stevens describes the protests and the events leading up to them, the suffragists’ prison experiences, and finally the amendment’s June 1919 ratification. The book is inscribed by Stevens “To Carrie Harrison faithful, devoted, tireless in her work for women” and dated “October 20, 1931 Washington D.C.” The dedicatee is Carrie Harrison of the Department of Agriculture in Washington, D.C., an Iowa native who studied at Wellesley College and Cornell University. She was a dedicated botanist and a member of the College Equal Suffrage League (CESL). She is also credited with coining the 4-H organization’s motto “To make the best better.” SL

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Stevens, Doris. Jailed for Freedom. New York : Boni and Liveright, 1920.
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Rare Ulysses items at RBML for Bloomsday

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Today is Bloomsday, the anniversary ofthe day that James Joyce met his future wife, Nora, as well as the date on which his novel Ulysses takes place.

Ulysses recalls a single day in the lives of advertising man Leopold Bloom and brooding twenty-something Stephen Dedalus. Notorious for its length (over a quarter-million words) and narrative complexity (one 150-page chapter is written as a play; Bloom’s wife Molly thinks in an unpunctuated stream of consciousness in the final chapter), Ulysses has taken its place as one of the best-known modernist novels in the pantheon of English-language literature. The chapters are modeled on events in Homer’s Odyssey, though there is little outward resemblance between Homer’s epic and Joyce’s depiction of a rather ordinary day.

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Like Dubliners before it–which we discussed on January 31st, 2014Ulysses has a fraught publication history. After two American publishers turned the novel down because of controversial passages which he was unwilling to delete, Joyce turned to ex-pat bookshop owner Sylvia Beach, who published the book under the imprint Shakespeare and Company, the name of her Parisian bookstore. RBML holds an original 1921 prospectus for the book. This two-sided, single-sheet publication includes a blank order form advertising three editions: the first “on Dutch hand made paper with signature of the Author” (350 fr.), the second “on verge d’Arches” (250 fr.), and the third “on hand made paper” (150 fr.).

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We also hold a scarce 1927 protest against American publisher Samuel Roth’s unauthorized republication of the novel in his magazine Two Worlds Monthly. Roth published Ulysses in a protest against censorship and in a bid to increase the readership of modernist works, but ac6-16-15 823 J85u Ulysses_1cording to Joyce and his international cast of protestors, Roth failed to pay Joyce and his serialization contained “alterations which seriously corrupt the text.” In actuality, Roth did pay Joyce, but the money never made it to the author’s overseas bank account. Roth also insisted that the only changes to the text occurred through employee error. Among those who signed the protest are such luminaries as Bertrand Russell, Knut Hamsun, Albert Einstein, T.S. Eliot, André Gide, José Ortega y Gasset, H.G. Wells, Virginia Woolf, and W.B. Yeats.

The first edition of Ulysses was released by Shakespeare and Company on Joyce’s 40th birthday, February 2nd, 1922. It was issued in an edition of 1000 copies, of which our copy is 707. New York courts ruled against Ulysses‘s serialized form–published in the American magazine The Little Review–in 1921 for its objectionable content, which included descriptions of defecation and salacious details of Molly Bloom’s affair. Copies of the completed book were seized by New York customs officials in 1922 and burned. Though bootleg copies circulated in the States, the book was illegal to own. Finally, Judge John M. Woolsey ruled in 1933 that the book was not obscene, and it became available for purchase in the United States one year later in 1934 following an unsuccessful appeal by the US Attorney. Britain legalized the book after a similar ruling in 1936. SL

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Joyce, James. Ulysses. Paris: Shakespeare and Co., 1922.
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[Protest against Mr. Roth’s conduct in republishing Ulysses.] Paris: [s.n.], 1927
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Ulysses by James Joyce will be published in the autumn of 1921 by [Shakespeare and Company].” Paris: Shakespeare and Company, [1921]
Q . 823 J85uYsha 1921:

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Putting the Hand back in Handpress


While cataloging this title from the Cavagna Collection – Per la facciata del Duomo di Milano (ca. 1657) – I came across something I’ve never seen before in a book from the handpress period: a handprint embedded in the paper fibers! Is it the vatman’s hand, who scoops the cotton rag pulp into the mould? Or the coucher’s, who transfers the drained pulp from the mould to felt beds to be pressed? Or the printer’s, who dampens the dried paper slightly before printing? Handmade paper from this period already bears witness to the papermaking process, with laid and chain lines from the wire mesh of the mould, felt marks from the textiles used to press the paper, and the papermaking firms’ watermarks, but evidence of the craftsman’s hand is rarely so overt.


By closely examining a blank leaf with a light sheet, many clues to the origin of the paper can be gleaned. The watermark with initials FB is unidentified, but the design is unsophisticated; given the book’s scope, it is likely that the paper came from a Milanese papermaking firm of middling standing. The blank leaf also reveals imperfections in the formation of the paper, such as undispersed bundles of coarse fiber, also indicating a lower quality papermaking firm.


Alongside the handprint, the work also documents a very interesting time in mid-seventeenth-century Milan and in the history of its famous cathedral. t.p.The title page bears no imprint, as it is a collection of opinions and designs for the renovation of the façade of the Duomo, with each contribution likely originating independently before being gathered together under the collective title. Contributors included Francesco Castelli, Francesco Maria Richini, Carlo Buzzi, and Gian Lorenzo Bernini.

Per la facciata del Duomo di Milano demonstrates that the cathedral’s façade was a major concern for the citizens of Milan and that architects were planning to demolish and replace the fifteenth-century façade well before actual work on it began in 1683. Over a century later a design was finally settled on—one that incorporated Carlo Buzzi’s seventeenth-century design—and work initiated by Napoleon began in 1791. The renovation of the façade was completed in 1813.


Wait—there’s more. One of the six engraved illustrations has flaps that reveal alternate plans for the design of the façade! CMO


Per la facciata del Duomo di Milano. Milan, ca. 1657.
Q. 726.645 P41:


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Help Solve a Tudor Mystery at RBML


King Henry VIII and his inner circle are once again in the public spotlight with the recent American premiere of the miniseries Wolf Hall, based on Hilary Mantel’s 2009 novel. The Rare Book and Manuscript Library proudly holds a piece of this fascinating Tudor history and we’re calling on our readers to help us find out what puzzle it belongs to.

Seven years after execution of Anne Boleyn and three years after the downfall of his advisor Thomas Cromwell, the protagonist of Wolf Hall, the King married his sixth and final wife, twice-widowed Catherine Parr. The marriage occurred about 17 months after Henry had his fifth wife, Catherine Howard, executed for adultery. By most accounts, Henry’s life with Parr was happier and less tumultuous than his previous marriages, though short-lived: the King died less than four years after they were wed, and Parr never bore him any children.

Born to a noble family in northern England, Parr was well-educated and had a zeal for learning. She spoke French, Italian, and Latin, and was learned in theology. It is therefore no surprise that she turned her talents to the written word, producing an English-language translation of John Fisher’s Latin Psalms shortly after her marriage to the King. In 1544 the translation was published by the King’s printer Thomas Berthelet under the title Psalmes, or, Prayers Taken out of Holie Scripture. With the publication, she became the first Queen to have a book in print. (A later religious volume Prayers, or, Medytacions also distinguished her as the first Englishwoman to publish under her own name.) The fifteen Psalms of Fisher are supplemented in Parr’s translation by “A praier for the kynge” and “A praier for men to saie enteryng into battayle.” Parr is thought to have written the latter herself, perhaps on the occasion of Henry’s third invasion of France in mid-1544.


Copies of the book are scarce and it is not known how many may have been originally printed, but they appear to have been specially ordered from Berthelet in small batches at the behest of the Queen, and the surviving copies have distinct bibliographical differences. Most are printed on paper. From a bill from Berthelet dated May 1st circa 1544, we know that some of the Psalmes were “gorgiously bound” with “gilt on the letter.” A later bill tells us that other books ordered by the Queen, perhaps the Psalmes, were “printed in fine velim” [1]. Vellum was by its nature more labor-intensive to produce than paper and therefore a pricier commodity, so very few 16th-century books in England were printed on it.

Until this point, only two vellum copies of the Psalmes have been traced. One, at Elton Hall in Cambridgeshire, has annotations in King Henry’s hand and was later presented by him to his daughter Mary before he died. The other resides at Exeter College and bears the signature of William Herbert, 1st Earl of Pembroke, husband of Catherine’s sister Anne. Both were probably gifts from Catherine [2]; presentation copies were sent to several members of the Queen’s inner circle.

RBML holds a third copy, whose significance was not realized until recently. A mere four inches in height, its vellum leaves are richly illuminated. Girding the title is a faded gilt border suffused with blue scrolls and flowers. The royal arms of Henry himself are emblazoned on the title page verso. Gold lions and fleurs-de-lis once adorned its escutcheon, though only gilt traces of the charges remain. The escutcheon is encircled by a garter with the motto Honi soit qui mal y pense, which is the motto of the Order of the Garter. Above it flies a banner bearing the royal motto Dieu et mon droit. The columns and beams of the architectural border are traced with delicate veins of silver. The first letter of the book’s opening line “O lorde of lordes . . .” has within it a red Tudor rose. Other rubricated initials appear throughout


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The book’s provenance is a tantalizing mystery. At one point, it was owned by members of the Pickering family. “James Pickering” is written in an italic hand on the first front flyleaf verso, then again in the margins of leaf C5r: “James Pickering booke.” “Richard Pickering” is twice written on the verso of the final leaf. James’s hand would seem to date from the early to mid-17th century, while Richard’s inscription is earlier–from the late 1500s, perhaps. There is also a couplet, visible only under ultraviolet light, in the margins of the last leaf. It reads:

Love doth remaine whil money doth [ ]
When money is gone then love [ ]


Who the Pickerings are and whether they had a connection with Henry’s court is unknown. The earliest inscription occurs on leaf D1r. The first name is, quite clearly, Henry. The surname–if it is a surname–is harder to make out. The final three letters are “-rry.” It is preceded by another word ending in “-nn” or “-m.” One possibility is “Carry.”


Henry Carey, 1st Baron Hunsdon, is a plausible candidate for one of Parr’s lavish presentation copies of the Psalmes. He was the son of one of Henry’s favorite attendants and courtiers, William Carey. His mother was Mary Boleyn, sister of Anne Boleyn and Henry’s mistress for several years. In fact, there is still some debate over whether Henry Carey was the illegitimate child of Henry and Mary, though many historians think this is unlikely due to Henry’s desperation for an heir and the recognition he paid to his illegitimate son, Henry FitzRoy. In Wolf Hall, Mantel has Mary Boleyn speculating that the reason her son remains unacknowledged as the King’s is because Anne Boleyn assumes she will give the King male heirs and thus does not want any competition from her nephew.


Henry Carey was married in May 1545, to Anne Morgan. It is conceivable that the book could have been presented to him as a wedding gift, though it does not bear any annotations to that effect, at least any that survive; the book is lacking the blank rear fly-leaves and perhaps a front fly-leaf or two. “Henry” is also written in different script, though not necessarily a different hand, on the page opposite the possible “Carry” inscription. 1-IMG_4089 (1)

Finally, there is a leaf, somewhat faded, of devotions in an early hand at the front of the book. Though we have not fully transcribed it, certain phrases stand out: “hayll marye”; “most noble”; “holy gost”; “most desyrable.” Could they have been written by Henry or Catherine? We open up the question to our readers. We also welcome suggestions on the Henry inscription and information about Richard or James Pickering. SL


Psalmes, or, Prayers taken out of holie Scripture. ([London] : Imprinted by Thomas Berthelet …, anno Domini MDXLV [1545])

[1] See: Rose-Troupe, F. “Two Book Bills of Katherine Parr.” The Library. S3.II (1911): 40-48.
[2] See: Mueller, Janel, ed. Katherine Parr: Complete Works and Correspondence. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011.

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April, “the cruellest month”, is also National Poetry Month!

“April is the cruellest month.” Thus begins one of the most important pieces of modern poetry ever written: T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land.  Characteristic of Eliot’s work, this poem invites readers to question their own knowledge by putting forth information in multiple languages. The Waste Land’s epigraph, written in Greek, details the fable of Apollo’s gift of eternal life to the Sybil and her mistake in forgetting to also ask for eternal youth. The Sybil’s careless choice of words exemplifies T.S. Eliot’s and the modernist literary movement’s belief that every word within a text holds its own importance.

Published in 1923, The Waste Land was written during a time of great trouble in Eliot’s life. His marriage was failing, he was suffering from a nervous disorder and his disillusionment with the post-war world was increasing. Critics of Eliot have sometimes commented on the poem’s seeming obscurity.

During a trip to Europe, Eliot and his wife stayed with author Ezra Pound in Paris, France. Having been advised to seek treatment for his nervous disorder in Lausanne, Switzerland, Eliot spent his time there writing. Upon his return to Paris, he presented his 19-page manuscript to Pound, who made significant and detailed comments and cuts. Eliot would later dedicate this poem to Pound.

The poem was originally published in the United Kingdom in the first issue of The Criterion, a literary magazine founded and edited by Eliot, in October of 1922. Its first appearance in the United States came one month later in November of 1922 in The Dial magazine, followed by a volume including the author’s notes by Boni and Liveright, in December of 1922. In September of 1923, Leonard and Virginia Woolf’s Hogarth Press,  published the first UK book edition of the poem in a run of 450 copies handset by Virginia Woolf.

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Eliot, T.S. The Waste Land
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Eliot’s most famous work went through several different titles in its many different manuscript forms. The poem’s original title was He do the Police in Different Voices, a reference to Charles Dickens’s novel Our Mutual Friend, in which Betty Higden says of her son Sloppy, “You mightn’t think it, but Sloppy is a beautiful reader of a newspaper. He do the Police in different voices.” Eliot’s final title may also allude to other published works: Jessie L. Weston’s From Ritual to Romance which outlines the Grail legend, the wounding of the Fisher King and the following sterility of his lands, or possibly Madison Cawein’s Waste Land, another poem similar in theme and language, published in 1913.

“April is the cruellest month” because winter has ended and yet the first signs of spring have not yet broken through the mud and sludge. However, April also represents the beginning of a new growing season. T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land is a perfect topic for our final blog post of April, as we conclude this year’s National Poetry Month and our campus finally shows signs that spring has arrived! -NC

Eliot, T.S. The Waste Land. (Richmond, Surrey: Printed and published by Leonard and Virginia Woolf at the Hogarth Press, Hogarth House, Paradise Road, 1923) 811 Eℓ4w1923:

Read The Waste Land on the Poetry Foundation’s website:

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Paul Laurence Dunbar illustrated bindings

We’ve talked in past Tumblr posts about the history of bookbinding. In the early years of book production it was incumbent upon an owner to have the book bound after purchase, but by the 1800s publishers were issuing books in pre-made, plain-cloth bindings. Some bindings were more extravagant, with gilt accents and blind-tooled designs on the covers. These more elaborate bindings reached their epoch between 1870 and 1930. Designs were rendered in full color on front covers and spines, and often reflect the aesthetic trends of the era: Arts & Crafts, Art Nouveau, and Art Deco. The illustrations can be pictorial in nature as well, featuring people and animals. They also frequently include the monogram of the artist. In fact, some artists were so popular that publishers even used their names to market books.

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These three poetry collections by poet Paul Laurence Dunbar exemplify illustrated publishers’ bindings. The colors are eye-catching and vivid, the floral designs symmetrical. Gilt offsets the titles and the author’s name. Publishers’ bindings are noteworthy as an industry in which women predominated. The bindings for Candle-Lightin’ Time and When Malindy Sings are by artist Margaret Armstrong, who produced over 150 illustrated bindings. Her distinctive MA monogram can be glimpsed in the upper-right corner of When Malindy Sings. The binding for Poems of Cabin and Field is by Alice Cordelia Morse, who once worked for Tiffany studios. Morse designed approximately 80 bindings over the course of her career. The illustrations do not appear to have any particular link with the theme of Dunbar’s books, since similar designs can be found for a variety of literary works.

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Paul Laurence Dunbar, born in 1872, published over fifteen books before his death in 1906, and received acclaim from personalities such as poet James Whitcomb Riley, abolitionist Frederick Douglass, and William Dean Howells, who praised Majors and Minors, a volume of poems written both in standard and dialect English. For more on Dunbar, see and

These books are drawn from the expansive Meine Collection, profiled recently. The Meine Collection includes numerous examples of illustrated publishers’ bindings, as well as other works by Paul Laurence Dunbar. SL

Dunbar, Paul Laurence. Candle-Lightin’ Time. (New York : Dodd Mead & Co., 1901)
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Poems of Cabin and Field. (New York : Dodd, Mead & Co., 1899)
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When Malindy Sings. (New York : Dodd, Mead & Co., 1903)
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