March 2012 | Rebecca Rego Barry

Jarndyce Antiquarian Booksellers

Catalogue Review: Jarndyce, The Library of a Dickensian
Written by Ian McKay*

197.jpgWe are going to see and hear a lot of Charles Dickens in this bicentenary year, and on February 7, London booksellers, Jarndyce issued what they describe as "The Dickens Catalogue of the Year."
    Containing amongst its 136 items, inscribed and other first or significant editions, letters and manuscript material, prints that once hung on the staircase wall at Gad's Hill, and assembled by one private collector, this, say Jarndyce, will be the finest collection to be offered in the year in this 200th anniversary year.
    Among those inscribed copies is the 1839 first of Nicholas Nickleby that he gave to the artist Sir David Wilkie, godfather to his close friend and fellow writer, Wilkie Collins.
    Containing a long letter in which Wilkie describes a party that Dickens gave to celebrate the book's publication, this copy in a presentation binding of dark green morocco gilt bears the bookplates of two well known Dickens collectors, the Comte Alain de Suzannet and William E. Self, and was was part of the latter's 2008-09, Christie's New York sales.
    This inscribed Nicholas Nickleby is now priced at £120,000, while a copy of that great rarity, a true 1861, three vol. first of Great Expectations in the original purple cloth and gilt lettered spines, is priced at £50,000.
    An annotated copy of Mrs Gamp, a collection passages condensed from Martin Chuzzlewit that Dickens used on an American reading tour is priced at £85,000. Printed by Ticknor & Fields of Boston, it was presented to and inscribed for H. M.Ticknor on the very last night of the tour in April 1868. This too is an ex-Comte Alain de Suzannet/Self item.
    An 1850 first of David Copperfield inscribed by Dickens to his actor friend John Harley is priced at £120,000 in its period binding of half calf and marbled boards, while manuscript material includes a leaf bearing a section copied eight years later from the book and sent to Edmund Yates, possibly for sale in aid of charity. The latter, featuring an incident from David's engagement to his child-bride, Dora, is priced at £28,000.
    Among the three original portraits of the writer in the sale is a pencil sketch of of the young Dickens seated in a chair, c.1838, by his friend and early collaborator, George Cruikshank, priced at £18,0000.
    If you wish to see this catalogue, it is available from the bookseller for £20, £30 overseas. You can also view a turn-page version online.

*First published in the UK weekly, Antiques Trade Gazette. Reprinted by permission and with our thanks.