In 1851, Charles Dickens moved into Tavistock House, the London home where he was to write Bleak House and A Tale of Two Cities, among other works. Wanting for some unknown reason to fill a space in his study with a selection of false books — complete with witty names he thought up himself — he wrote to a bookbinder with a list of “imitation book-backs” to be created specially for his bookshelf.
As part of the New York Public Library’s newly-opened exhibition Charles Dickens: The Key to Character , curators have recreated a few books from Dickens’ clever set (we’ve been informed that curator William Moeck’s favorite title is Kant’s Ancient Humbugs while Curatorial Associate Kailen Rogers is partial to Five Minutes in China and Growler’s Gruffiology, with Appendix) for your perusal. Click through to see the whole list and a couple photos from the exhibition, and then if you’re in the area, be sure to check it out in person.
Five Minutes in China. 3 vols. Forty Winks at the Pyramids. 2 vols. Abernethy on the Constitution. 2 vols. Mr. Green’s Overland Mail. 2 vols. Captain Cook’s Life of Savage. 2 vols. A Carpenter’s Bench of Bishops. 2 vols. Toot’s Universal Letter-Writer. 2 vols. Orson’s Art of Etiquette. Downeaster’s Complete Calculator. History of the Middling Ages. 6 vols. Jonah’s Account of the Whale. Captain Parry’s Virtues of Cold Tar. Kant’s Ancient Humbugs. 10 vols. Bowwowdom. A Poem. The Quarrelly Review. 4 vols. The Gunpowder Magazine. 4 vols. Steele. By the Author of “Ion.”
The Art of Cutting the Teeth. Matthew’s Nursery Songs. 2 vols. Paxton’s Bloomers. 5 vols. On the Use of Mercury by the Ancient Poets. Drowsy’s Recollections of Nothing. 3 vols. Heavyside’s Conversations with Nobody. 3 vols. Commonplace Book of the Oldest Inhabitant. 2 vols. Growler’s Gruffiology, with Appendix. 4 vols. The Books of Moses and Sons. 2 vols. Burke (of Edinburgh) on the Sublime and Beautiful. 2 vols. Teazer’s Commentaries. King Henry the Eighth’s Evidences of Christianity. 5 vols. Miss Biffin on Deportment. Morrison’s Pills Progress. 2 vols. Lady Godiva on the Horse. Munchausen’s Modern Miracles. 4 vols. Richardson’s Show of Dramatic Literature. 12 vols. Hansard’s Guide to Refreshing Sleep. As many volumes as possible.
Spine designs by Ann Sappenfield, courtesy NYPL.