Preserving the words


George Cattermole's Old Curiosity shop

Anyone who reads this blog will know that I’m a big fan of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London which houses many treasures illustrating not only our own culture but the world.  This week the museum is launching a campaign to conserve three of Dickens’s original manuscripts which were acquired from the writer’s home by his friend John Forster and bequeathed to the museum in 1876.  The race is on to restore the priceless originals in time for Dickens’ bicentenary of Dickens’ birth in 2012.

David Copperfield by Phiz

“At the moment we can’t display these manuscripts safely because they are so damaged and so fragile,”

 said John Meriton, deputy keeper of word and image at the V&A.

“They were last conserved in the 1960s, when they were rebound and placed in what are called ‘guard books’. But the backing paper used, unfortunately, was very acidic, causing a lot of stress to the original manuscript leaves.”

A Tale of Two Cities by Phiz

A Tale of Two Cities, David Copperfield and Dickens last unfinished novel manuscript The Mystery of Edwin Drood will all be restored and conserved for the public to see – if the money can be found (which I’m confident it will be).  Dickens has contributed so much to English literature.  He has entertained, prodded consciences and provoked social awareness with his sharp commentaries upon the poor, working conditions and the division of the social classes.  He has cocked a snoot at  the Upper class and championed the orphan.  He should be celebrated!

So, jumping in there way ahead of his bicentenary I am issuing a challenge on Bookstains.  If you would like to take part please click Mr Dickens:-) 

If not – just enjoy the illustrations – I shall be running a fun poll soon to see which Dicken’s illustrator is the most popular (and there are many…)

More about the V and A’s campaign to conserve these precious manuscripts here

Dickens illustration from here and here

13 thoughts on “Preserving the words

  1. Oh this could be interesting. I have a small print of a painting of Dickens in a chair imagining many characters. You’ve reminded me of it and the adventure of the time. Thank you.

  2. Considering that Dickens was holding up a mirror to the horrors of Industrialization…you also have to admire the society he lived in that would allow such works to be puclished and read to begin with. It’s great to see his works are still considered important enough to preserve as he intended them. I remember a visit to the British Museum and wandered into a book exhibit and feeling moved by just looking at volumes of noteworthy books. Just knowing what some of them were gave them an iconic presence.

  3. Yes! thats an excellent point! I don’t think the upper crust valued the words of a ‘popular’ novelist as much as they should have at the beginning of his career, but they were mistaken – this man certainly proved to have a voice:-)
    What a creative person he was – he never stopped – he hardly slept, he walked the streets of London half of the night! I wouldn’t mind seeing these manuscripts myself. I know that they will get the money:-)

  4. Thank-you for sharing these illustrations, here, Lynda. I have not seen these particular ones previously. I miss illustrations in novels. So many of the old novels from my Grandparent’s home had illustrations in them. I have several in my collection and enjoy looking at them.

    1. Yes, some of these black and white illustrations were pieces of art in themselves. I have many happy memories of Dickens books and other great novels filled with these imaginative drawings. We didn’t even need colour – our imagination filled in the gaps:-D

      1. Yes, I was including miscarriages in that dimly recalled count. I remember thinking how incredibly hard it would be to deal with so many physical transformations with each go round. Now wonder Charles walked the streets and wrrote as hie did. Hmm. would he qualify as an obsessive-complusive personality?
        Oh I do enjoy the illustrations. Looking forward to your expansion on this with your forthcoming poll.

  5. I could not agree more that Dickens should be celebrated, and do hope the money can be found to preserve his work. Great Bookstains challenge idea! Ah, so many possible ways to approach the prompt. Hard Times is a work that opened my eyes. However, maybe this challenge requires a bit of a “twist.” lol Great posts, Lynda 🙂

  6. I’m working on one at the moment Adam. The book is Great Expectations, one of my favorites. I wonder if I will get any Oliver Twists? this challlenge could run and run – lots of scope! I do hope you can join in:-)

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