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Wednesday, 7 February, 2001, 12:04 GMT
Papers show Dickens' hard times
There are some 300 documents in all
The British Library has acquired a "stunning" collection of papers which give an insight into the professional struggles of 19th century author Charles Dickens.

This important and unique collection of papers vividly illustrates the complex workings of the 19th Century publishing world

Chris Fletcher, British Library
The 300 documents, ranging from letters and publishing memos to formal agreements on book deals, have been bought for an undisclosed sum from the Dickens family and have never been widely available to scholars before.

The papers record the dealings between Dickens, his family, lawyers and publishers from 1844 to 1858 and provide a unique insight into the working life of the most successful writer of his time.

Unique collection

Chris Fletcher, curator of modern literary manuscripts at British Library said:

"This important and unique collection of papers vividly illustrates the complex workings of the 19th Century publishing world while providing an extraordinary insight into the determination of one of our most popular authors in his skilled attempts to protect his hard-won professional interests."

Dickens, who wrote Great Expectations, Hard Times and Oliver Twist, was the first English author to win a genuine share of the copyright of his work, and a continuing share of book profits, but many of his peers were impoverished by unfair deals with publishers.

"This array of elaborate documents clearly reveal that Dickens hadn't far to look for inspiration when creating his dark fictional vision of the legal trade," said Fletcher.

The British Library says many of the papers, including elaborate parchment deeds tied with fading purple ribbon and inventories drawn up in Victorian copperplate, are visually stunning.

Charles Dickens was born on 7 February 1812.

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