Morgan Library & Museum Opens Exhibition Celebrating the Birth of Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens (1812-1870) was Britain’s first true literary superstar. In his time, he attracted international adulation on an unprecedented scale, and many of his books became instant classics. Today, his popularity continues unabated, and his work remains not only widely read but widely adapted to stage and screen.

The Morgan Library & Museum’s Dickens collection is the largest in the United States and is one of the two greatest in the world, along with the holdings of Britain’s Victoria and Albert Museum. Charles Dickens at 200, on view September 23, 2011–February 12, 2012, celebrates the bicentennial of the great writer’s birth in 1812 with manuscripts of his novels and stories, letters, books, photographs, original illustrations, and caricatures. Sweeping in scope, the exhibition captures the art and life of a man whose literary and cultural legacy ranks among the giants of literature.
“It is difficult to imagine a novelist of greater importance in the English language than Charles Dickens,” said William M. Griswold, director of The Morgan Library & Museum. “His books are touchstones of literary history and his characters—from Tiny Tim and Oliver Twist to Ebenezer Scrooge and Uriah Heep—are some of the most vividly drawn in all of fiction. The Morgan is delighted to mark this important Dickens anniversary year with an exhibition that celebrates his extraordinary creativity and fascinating life.”

Charles Dickens at 200 will focus primarily on Dickens’s novels and their relation to his various activities and collaborations—literary, artistic, theatrical, and philanthropic—from The Pickwick Papers (1836), his first book, to Our Mutual Friend (1865), the last he completed. (The Mystery of Edwin Drood remained incomplete at the time of Dickens’s death in 1870).

The Morgan’s collection of Dickens material notably includes the complete manuscript of Our Mutual Friend, the only manuscript of a Dickens novel in the United States, as well as the manuscripts of three of Dickens’s Christmas stories, including the iconic A Christmas Carol (1843). The Morgan has the largest collection of the author’s letters (over 1500) in the U.S. as well as more than fifty original illustrations of Dickens’s work, complete runs of Dickens’s novels published in monthly installments, first editions of his books, portrait photographs, caricatures, playbills, and ephemera.

The Morgan Library & Museum began as the private library of financier Pierpont Morgan, one of the preeminent collectors and cultural benefactors in the United States. Today, more than a century after its founding in 1906, the Morgan serves as a museum, independent research library, musical venue, architectural landmark, and historic site. In October 2010, the Morgan completed the first-ever restoration of its original McKim building, Pierpont Morgan’s private library, and the core of the institution. In tandem with the 2006 expansion project by architect Renzo Piano, the Morgan now provides visitors unprecedented access to its world-renowned collections of drawings, literary and historical manuscripts, musical scores, medieval and Renaissance manuscripts, printed books, and ancient Near Eastern seals and tablets.
General Information

The Morgan Library & Museum 225 Madison Avenue, at 36th Street, New York, NY 10016-3405 212.685.0008
www.themorgan.org

Image: Alfred Bryan (1852-1899), Caricature of Charles Dickens and William Makepeace Thackeray, undated. Charcoal and colored chalks, on blue paper. The Morgan Library & Museum, New York. 1974.7 Gift of Miss Caroline Newton, 1974. Photo: Graham S. Haber.

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