Selections from Special Collections


Charles Dickens



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xvi, p., 1 ℓ., 624 p. front., plates. 22 cm. Added t.-p., engr.: Dealings with the firm of Dombey and son, wholesale, retail and for exportation. The first edition complete in one volume. Previously issued in twenty monthly parts.

Some of the pages in this document were selected as part of a class project for Professor Garth Bond’s History of the Book seminar, Spring 2009. The abstract was prepared by Bridget Heiking.

Publication Date



Bradbury and Evans




English Language and Literature


If Dickens' serializations of his novels were so successful, why did he choose to republish Dombey and Son in book format? Why, with these alternate forms of publication, do authors continue to publish their texts in book form? The simple answer is money; publishing a serialization in book format means expanding your audience and reaching new markets. It also means getting your current audience to re-purchase your text, for the sake of convenience. The simple answer is to make money, both for the publisher and for the author. But how do they make money, when cheaper, alternative formats are available? There may be some readers who simply do not wish to purchase serializations, and this is where new markets come in. But the more interesting question, and perhaps the more pertinent one, is what about those who do have access to the same text, but for cheaper? Why would they still repurchase the text? These purchases are arguably made largely out of convenience. A book means increased portability, better "readability" (actual legibility, as well as the ease of flipping through actual pages of a book versus reading individual serializations), and finally, as Duguid mentions in his work, "Material Matters" alternative forms of publication have "space left empty…gaps or breaches to worry about" and one of these gaps is the sense of permanence, the sense of concreteness, that books provide, that a collection of serializations cannot accommodate. Ultimately, as long as readers will keep buying books out of convenience, publishers will be more than happy to keep making them.


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Selected pages from the book Dombey and son. By Charles Dickens. With illustrations by H. K. Browne.