“Suffolk Surnames” 1857 Book From Charles Dickens Personal Library

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We sold this item at auction for $2,200
 in May, 2023.

Charles Dickens’ Copy of “Suffolk Surnames”

An interesting artifact from the personal library of Charles Dickens has emerged at auction: a copy of “Suffolk Surnames” by N.I. Bowditch, printed in Boston by John Wilson and Son in 1857.

This particular copy bears the distinction of being a presentational copy gifted to Dickens himself, with an inscription from the author dated February 18, 1857.

Presentational copy with an inscription from the author, “Charles Dickens – with the respects of Nathaniel Ingersoll Bowditch, Boston, Feb 18, 1857”.

Provenance and Ownership

The bookplate of Charles Dickens is affixed to the pastedown of this volume, alongside an additional label indicating its origin from Dickens’ library at Gadshill Place, June 1870. This provenance adds significant value and historical interest to the book, providing a direct link to one of the most celebrated authors of the Victorian era.

Literary Connections

Pencil notations scattered throughout the book reveal its role in the creative process behind Dickens’ publication “Household Words.” Marked passages, highlighting amusing family names such as Butt, Bytheway, Helpusgod, Hum, and Hangit, were earmarked for inclusion in an entertaining article titled “Family Names,” published in the May 30, 1857 issue of “Household Words.”

Dickens’ penchant for using distinctive names in his novels is well-documented, and “Suffolk Surnames” provided him with a rich source of inspiration.

The book contains references to surnames like “Pocket” (used for Herbert Pocket in “Great Expectations”), “Venus” (Mr. Venus in “Our Mutual Friend”), “Wren” (Jenny Wren), “Bud” (Rosa Bud), and “Jasper” (John Jasper in “The Mystery of Edwin Drood”), all of which appear in Dickens’ subsequent works.

Correction and Quotation

Interestingly, the collectible book features several pencil corrections and one ink correction, indicating Dickens’ meticulous attention to detail. Notable corrections include the substitution of ‘French’ for ‘English’ and ‘Latin’ for ‘German’ within the text.

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