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Grolier Club Exhibitions

1836–1839: The Whirlwind Arrival of Mr. Dickens and the Launch of Bentley's Miscellany


Sketches by “Boz” Illustrative of Every-Day Life, and Every-Day People. In Two Volumes. Illustrations by George Cruikshank. London: John Macrone, St. James Square. MDCCCXXXVI.

First edition, first issue in original green cloth bindings. This was Dickens’ first book. At its publication, he was a 23-year-old unknown reporter. The artist, by then known as “The Great George,” was his senior by 20 years. Dickens did not appreciate that the critics praised Sketches as much for its beautiful and highly finished etchings, as for its literary content.

“Mr. Gabriel Parsons’s Courtship”, frontispiece for Volume II.

Sketches by Boz Illustrative of Every-Day Life and Every-Day People. With Forty Illustrations by George Cruikshank. New Edition, Complete. London: Chapman and Hall, 186, Strand, 1839. First edition, first issue of the first and second series complete in one volume, in original blind-stamped brown cloth binding.

Title page with balloon and “The Election of Beadle” as frontispiece.

After obtaining the copyright for both series of Sketches from John Macrone in 1837, Chapman and Hall published both in 20 monthly parts from November 1837 through June 1839. Cruikshank designed the pink paper wrapper for each part, enlarged the plates (except for “The Free and Easy,” which was discarded), and created 13 new illustrations. In May 1839, Chapman and Hall published the parts complete in one volume (present here) with all 40 of Cruikshank’s etchings. For some of the first issue of the new volume, they used unsold copies of the parts, which can be identified by stab holes used to sew the parts. This copy has the stab holes visible in a number of places.

Sketches by Boz. Both Series. Proofs of the Etchings by George Cruikshank. 1836.

Album assembled by Henry Bruton (1843–1920), a successful Gloucester auctioneer and preeminent collector of Dickens and Cruikshank. It includes the original pencil drawing for the frontispiece of Sketches by Boz, Second Series, proof of the title page and 28 etched proof plates before letters on India paper for both series. The 12 proofs for the Second Series are each labeled in pencil “First Proof” with Cruikshank’s signature. Also included is a proof for the frontispiece for the 1852 edition of Sketches by Boz, and two states of the wrapper designed by Cruikshank for Sketches by Boz, both series, sold in parts by Chapman and Hall from November 1937-June 1839.

Original pencil drawing for the frontispiece of Sketches by Boz, Second Series, published by John Macrone in December 1836.

Hand-written ink notation by Cruikshank below drawing: “The Parties going up in the Balloon are intended for the Author and the Artist.”

Autograph letter from Bruton to B. B. McGeorge, Esq. Dated June 10, 1906, bound in to Bruton album, thanking him for a copy of his collection catalogue, saying in part:

"What a glorious collection & how marvellously [sic] rich in part books! I am very glad to know on whose shelves some of my choicest GCks repose. Forgive my being critical – but why have you omitted any reference to the proof of the wrapper of the parts which I inserted in the vol of proofs to Sketches by Boz? I looked upon this wrapper as a most interesting item – it was the only one known to me. It formed part of a collection of woodcuts cut by Jackson & was brought to Robson by a member of his family. I called at the shop shortly after the collection had been purchased & was delighted to get it of Robson for £2.20."

Bentley’s Miscellany. Edited by Boz. Illustrated by George Cruikshank. No. XXIII. November 1, 1838. New York. Jemima M. Lewer, Broadway, Corner of Pine Street. First American Edition. In original wrappers.

Richard Bentley started his London monthly in November 1836, in collaboration with Dickens as editor and Cruikshank as exclusive illustrator. This issue of the Miscellany contained two chapters of Oliver Twist with one Cruikshank etching, “The Jew & Morris Bolter begin to Understand Each Other,” and one of the Ingoldsby Legends with one Cruikshank illustration, “Grandpapa’s Story or The Witches Frolic.”


Bentley's Miscellany. Edited by Boz. Illustrated by George Cruikshank, No. XXIV. December 1, 1838. New York - Jemima M. Lewer, Broadway, Corner of Pine Street. First American edition. In original wrappers.

This monthly issue includes articles and stories by different authors, including Chapters Seventh and Eighth of Oliver Twist and several of The Ingoldsby Legends.

Etching entitled “The Meeting,” illustrating Chapter the Eighth of Oliver Twist.

Oliver Twist or, the Parish Boy’s Progress. By “Boz.” In Three Volumes. London: Richard Bentley, New Burlington Street. 1838. First issue of the first book edition, in original boards.

First issued in monthly installments in Bentley’s Miscellany from February 1837 through April 1839, Oliver was a great success even though it had to compete with the Pickwick Papers for much of its serialization. Probably for the first time in his career as an illustrator, Cruikshank’s name does not appear on the title page.

Vol. III. “Fagin in the condemned Cell.”

The Loving Ballard of Lord Bateman. Illustrated by George Cruikshank. London: Charles Tilt, Fleet Street, and Mustapha Syriad, Constantinople. MCXXXIX. Original green cloth over board wrapper in a black morocco box by Zaehnsdorf.

Cruikshank was famous for singing the Ballard, about a dandy lord’s romantic adventure in Turkey recited by a cockney dustman, at many an evening with friends. In 1839, he decided to write it up and illustrate it for publication. By that time, Cruikshank’s party performance had become so beloved that Dickens took to performing it as well, and Thackeray, inspired by Dickens’s rendition, undertook to illustrate it for publication. When Thackeray discovered that Cruikshank was planning to publish his own rendition, he and Dickens joined the fun, and it was published by Cruikshank’s publisher, Charles Tilt, with Cruikshank’s woodcuts, Thackeray’s text, and Dickens’s Preface and notes.

"Plate 3: The Turk's daughter expresses a wish as Lord Bateman is Hers."

Memoirs of Joseph Grimaldi, Edited by “Boz.” With Illustrations by George Cruikshank. In Two Volumes. London: Richard Bentley, New Burlington Street. 1838. First Edition.

Together with autograph letter from Grimaldi to Cruikshank: “I have for the present changed my mind relative to having my portrait painted. When (?) I again alter my opinion will let you know. Yours ? J. Grimaldi. 33 Southhampton St. Pentonville.” Penciled notation below: [Grimaldi] “died 31 May, 1837.” Joseph Grimaldi (1778–1837) was an English actor and comedian, who created the classic role of Clown. After his death, Richard Bentley bought the rights to his memoirs, asking Dickens to edit them and Cruikshank to illustrate. The book was produced during the period of intense disputes between Dickens and Bentley. Dickens later said that he agreed to edit Grimaldi “chiefly to please Cruikshank,” who had known and admired the comic artist.