Dexter Collection

Alt: The front cover of the publication 'The Best of all Good Company ... [A day with Charles Dickens], 1871, with an engraved portrait of Charles Dickens, printed on yellow paper.
Engraved portrait of Charles Dickens on the front cover of the publication 'The Best of all Good Company ... [A day with Charles Dickens], 1871. Shelfmark: Dex.193.

Editions of the works of Charles Dickens (1812- 70), and of numerous printed works about him, formed by John Furber Dexter (1847-1917)

About the collection

The Dexter Collection is a collection of Dickensiana; works by, about or connected to Charles Dickens (1812-1870). It was collected by J.F. (John Furber) Dexter (1847-1927) and purchased by the British Museum in 1969 from his grandson, David Stern.

The collection includes first editions in the original paper wrappers and publisher issued boards; special variants, proofs, speeches, reading editions, piracies and imitations of Dickens.

Some items from the original collection were transferred to the Modern Archives and Manuscripts Department and have been catalogued at Add MS 56081-56085. Other items are stored in the British Museum Department of Prints and Drawings. These include original drawings by, among others, H.K. Browne (“Phiz) and George Cruikshank.

What is available online?

  • The collection is catalogued and records can be found via the main library catalogue, Explore the British Library. The collection is shelfmarked Dex.1 and so on.

What is available in our Reading Rooms?

The collection has been microfilmed and access to the original copies in the Rare Books & Music Reading Room is restricted. For information on accessing the microfilms shelved at Mic.B.613/1-93, please contact or use the “Quick Chat” reference service available Monday-Friday.

The manuscripts can be accessed by registered readers in the Manuscripts Reading Room. A letter of introduction is required to view the manuscripts.


What is available in other organisations?

  • The Charles Dickens Museum, London, contains material relating to his life. There are over 100,000 items which include furniture, personal effects, paintings, prints, photographs, letters, manuscripts, and rare editions.
  • The Medway Archives Centre holds the Fitzgerald Collection made up of around 400 multiple editions and translations of works by and about Dickens, including rare plagiarisms. The collection belonged to Percy Hetherington Fitzgerald (1834-1925). 

Further information

  • A.H. Cleaver and T. Hatton, A Bibliography of the Periodical Works of Charles Dickens (1933). This reference work was based on the Dexter Collection. 
  • British Library, Charles Dickens, The J F Dexter Collection: Accessions to the General Catalogue of Printed Books; Manuscripts; Prints and Drawings (1974).