Charles Dickens annotated book tour reading copies digitised and published online

Digitising Charles Dickens's annotated book tour reading copies
Dickens's personally annotated works digitised for the Charles Dickens Museum
Published date:

“The British Library’s Digitisation Services team were enormously helpful when we were shaping the grant application for this project. We were confident these items were in safe hands with a team that knew what we needed and were familiar with this type of material.” Louisa Price, Curator at the Charles Dickens Museum

The Project

Between 1858 and 1870 Charles Dickens undertook public reading tours, including one to the USA. For these tours, Dickens printed excerpts (largely from his earlier novels) with wide margins which he used to edit or alter the text as well as to annotate pages with stage directions. Dickens kept these copies in his personal library and they all contain his bookplate.

“Dickens knew the potential of his stories to be adapted and performed. These books are an extraordinary record of how he re-imagined his characters beyond the novel.” Louisa Price, Curator at the Charles Dickens Museum

In late 2019, the Charles Dickens Museum received a grant from the National Manuscripts Conservation Trust to conserve, rehouse and digitise eight of their bound manuscripts; all valuable items that significantly contribute to our understanding of Dickens’s life and work.

The British Library were commissioned to digitise six of Dickens’s own reading copies. 

These items are regularly requested by scholars and researchers, and the Museum digitised them in order to make full-page, downloadable PDFs of each title available through their new collections online database

“Digitising these titles was a good decision not only from a conservation perspective, but also for Dickens scholarship generally. We are excited about new research that will emerge as a result of opening up these texts to the wider public.” Louisa Price, Curator at the Charles Dickens Museum

Digitising Charles Dickens's annotated book tour reading copies

The digitisation process

Before starting the digitisation process, we had several preparatory questions for the Dickens Museum to ensure we fully met their requirements. These included determining the file-naming structure, file format, colour background, resolution and delivery method. 

The Museum were sent samples to check the quality before we completed the full digitisation. Given the fragile nature of this collection, these heritage items were handled with utmost care throughout and the Museum placed their trust in our digitisation team’s expertise. 

“I really enjoyed handling this beautiful and historic collection and I feel this might go down as one of my most memorable digitisation projects that I’ve done in my time in this job.” Barrie Cooper, Imaging Technician

The outcome

The purpose of the National Manuscripts Conservation Trust grant was to conserve, rehouse and digitise these manuscripts. 

Following the digitisation process, the digitised pages were formatted by a design company and turned into downloadable PDF files attached to the records of each book. These PDFs are  available via the Museum’s online database. The images will also be added to the Museum’s Picture Library and accessed by publishers and researchers. The digitised images will also be available for future exhibition content. 

Digitisation has successfully opened-up access to the Charles Dickens Museum’s valuable collection without the risk of handling the precious originals. 

Contact us

Speak to one of our experts about digitising your collection.

E: businessdevelopment@bl.uk

T: +44 (0)1937 546060

W: bl.uk/digitisation-services

 

Key points

  • The Charles Dickens Museum, the London home of Charles Dickens, received a National Manuscripts Conservation Trust grant to conserve, rehouse and digitise a collection of bound manuscripts
  • We had the enormous privilege of digitising: Nicholas Nickleby, Bardell and Pickwick, The Bastille Prisoner, The Story of Little Dombey, The Haunted Man and Sikes and Nancy
  • These invaluable heritage items were handled with utmost care by our expert team throughout
  • The digitised images have been converted into downloadable PDF files attached to the records of each book and added to the Museum’s Picture Library 

Case studies

…“The British Library’s Digitisation Services team were enormously helpful when we were shaping the grant application for this project. We were confident these items were in safe hands with a team that knew what we needed and were familiar with this type of material.” Louisa Price, Curator at the Charles Dickens Museum…

“The British Library’s Digitisation Services team were enormously helpful when we were shaping the grant application for this project. We were confident these items were in safe hands with a team that knew what we needed and were familiar with this type of material.” Louisa Price, Curator at the Charles Dickens Museum

…“Thanks to the British Library and the West Bank Heritage Trust, priceless photos, correspondence and fascinating items from my great, great, great, grandfather’s travels and life have been preserved for everyone to view.” Antony James Backhouse Lambert, James Backhouse family member …

West Bank Park Heritage Trust commissioned us to digitise and preserve the priceless 19th century scrapbook of James Backhouse, a Quaker missionary, botanist and nurseryman who documented, amongst other things, Australian plant specimens

…"In addition to being a source for rare material, the British Library’s scanning services are excellent, producing high-quality images to the specifications we require" Paul Waldock, ProQuest…

In addition to being a source for rare material, the British Library’s scanning services are excellent, producing high-quality images to the specifications we require, thereby enabling projects to move forward in a smooth and efficient way

…"We were delighted with the British Library service offering onsite photography at our convenience: it was efficient and enjoyable, and produced the most beautiful images." John Sunderland, Friends of Malmesbury Abbey…

Malmesbury and its Abbey, had one of the most important libraries in Europe in the Middle Ages, and the famous historian William was from Malmesbury. The Friends of Malmesbury Abbey commissioned the British Library to digitise four volumes of the bible, known as the Malmesbury Bible earlier this summer.