Making the Book of Bleak House

Serial Installments of Bleak House, 1853
Serial Installments of Bleak House, 1853
Courtesy of Special Collections, University of Amsterdam, OTM: K 78-11-29

Charles Dickens became one of Britain’s most famous authors thanks to his good business sense as well as his talent for writing. Dickens published much of his work in the form of a serial, meaning in monthly installments in magazines. Bleak House is one example, published between March 1852 and September 1853. The format meant that readers were dying to know what happened next and would keep reading. Besides, the front page was only added in the last episode. At the end of the series, the reader went to a bookbinder, who made a book out of all the loose publications.

The final step of putting the book together did not happen with this copy from the Special Collections of the University of Amsterdam. The volumes are still separate, which makes the collection particularly rare. Additionally, the volumes show that almost half of every installment was filled with advertisements. While they were never intended for inclusion in the finished book, they are historically valuable and reveal a great deal about the time in which the story was first published and read.

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