Deciphering Dickens (prototype)



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Charles Dickens left behind a remarkably complete record of his literary output, including not just handwritten drafts for most of the major novels but also marked-up page proofs, serial publications, illustrations, theatrical adaptations and records of his own legendary performances from his work. These manuscripts, many of which were gifted to the V&A by Dickens's agent and executor John Forster, are a uniquely powerful resource not just for showing the hand of history's greatest novelist but for revealing that author's mind at work: the dense thicket of revisions allows us to see his first thoughts, changes of mind and innumerable refinements of expression.

The Dickens archives present an almost unique resource for understanding the entire process of textual composition, production, reproduction and dissemination, using an exceptionally famous author and going from 'planning to proofs'.

For more information about the project, see:


Little Dorrit Manuscript, 1855-1857

Little Dorrit Manuscript, 1855-1857

The autograph manuscript of Little Dorrit is now bound in 8 volumes (V&A MSL/1876/Forster/165/1 to 8). The first four chapters of Volume 1 are currently included in this transcription project.

38 pages: 3% transcribed, 97% needs review
Little Dorrit Proofs

Little Dorrit Proofs

The V&A also holds some surviving printers' proofs for Little Dorrit. The first four chapters of the proofs are currently included in this transcription project.

59 pages: 17% transcribed, 83% needs review
Little Dorrit Working Notes

Little Dorrit Working Notes

The V&A holds the author's working notes or "Number Plans" for Little Dorrit. The notes for No. II onwards are bound in with the main manuscript, while No. I is in another volume. The text is written on foolscap pages that were originally folded in half. Themes and ideas for inclusion in the...

9 pages: 89% transcribed, 11% needs review
All 3 records