The Nonesuch Dickens. The Complete Works of Charles Dickens.

London, The Nonesuch Press, 1937-38.

23 vols and etched steel plate in box, 8vo (255 x 158 mm), without the Nonesuch Dickensiana; uncut, volumes and box bound in original coloured full buckram by the Leighton-Straker Bookbinding Co., Ltd., gilt morocco lettering-pieces on spines, top edges gilt; a little light wear and occasional soiling, spines of a few volumes lightly sunned; a very good set, from the library of Laurence Olivier.


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Limited edition of 877, of which 66 sets were destroyed when a bomb hit the bindery in September 1940, so at most 811 complete sets survive (Dreyfus, Nonesuch Press, 108). The steel plate included with this set is number 605, “Solemn reference is made to Mr. Bunsby” from Dombey and Son (Chapter 23, facing p.458), engraved by H. K. Browne (‘Phiz’), with the typed letter of authenticity on Chapman & Hall headed paper, signed by Arthur Waugh.

Intended as a definitive edition of Dickens’ works the Nonesuch Press edition was printed using the original steel plates and woodblocks created by Chapman & Hall for the illustrations in the first editions of the books. Each set of the works was accompanied by one of the original engraved plates or woodblocks, of which there were 877. The original steel-engraved plate in this set is by ‘Phiz’ (Hablot Knight Browne), who was Dickens’ friend and the most highly regarded illustrator of his works. G. K. Chesterton once remarked, “no other illustrator ever created the true Dickens characters with the precise and correct quantum of exaggeration. No other illustrator ever breathed the true Dickens atmosphere, in which clerks are clerks and yet at the same time elves” (from ODNB).

Dreyfus 108.

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