Great Expectations

Charles Dickens’ “Great Expectations” is one of many famous novels which were published 150 years ago, in 1861.  Dickens released the novel serially in his magazine “All the Year Round” beginning in December 1860; the novel finished in the August 1861 issue.  London publishers Chapman and Hall then released “Great Expectations” in a three-volume book format.  Special Collections contains examples of both printing formats: original copies of “All the Year Round” can be found in the Victorian Collection, while a first edition copy of the three-volume “Great Expectations” is housed in the Vault Collections.

Why collect both the serialized and the book formats of “Great Expectations” and other 19th century novels?  Much longer fiction of the 19th century was published in both serial and multi-volume book form, and having both formats available can better help students and scholars interpret how a text was produced, published, and received.  Was the text changed between the time it was published serially and in book form?  Did serialization and “volumization” affect how the author chose to structure the novel, or how readers experienced and interpreted the text?  Did the audience of a novel in a given periodical differ from the audience who read the novel in book form?  These questions and others can be addressed by examining the differing early editions of a novel like “Great Expectations.”

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