Engraved cover design for Dickens's Pickwick Papers


After the success of Sketches by Boz in 1836, Charles Dickens (1812-1870) wrote his first novel, The Pickwick Papers, still writing under his pseudonym ‘Boz’.
The book first appeared in monthly parts, and this is the original cover design for the first issue, with a blank space left for the title text, showing a sleepy Pickwick out fishing. It comes from the author’s own presentation copy of his biography The Life of Dickens (1872-74).

The design is by Robert Seymour (1798-1836), a successful and popular illustrator. Seymour had struggled with mental illness, and shot himself soon after producing this work. His widow – who received no royalties from her husband’s work because of his suicide – later claimed he had supplied much of the input for the Pickwick Papers, though Dickens strenuously denied this.

With the introduction of the Cockney character Sam Weller in part 10, The Pickwick Papers – now illustrated by Hablot Knight Browne (‘Phiz’, 1815-1882) – became a best-seller.

Full title:
Engraved cover design for Pickwick, printed on Japanese vellum. Engraved by J. Jackson; drawn by [Robert] Seymour. [from the author's presentation copy of The Life of Dickens, 1872-74]
n.d., London
Print / Image
Robert Seymour, John Forster [compiler]
Usage terms
Public Domain
Held by
British Library
Dex.316. - Vol I, part II

Full catalogue details

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