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About the Digital Dickens Notes Project

The DDNP is digitizing and exploring Charles Dickens’s Working Notes–pages on which he recorded ideas, plans, and memoranda while he was writing–in order to reveal how his novels developed during their serial composition. By presenting color digitizations and transcriptions of these manuscripts in interaction with the novels to which they refer, the DDNP will interpret the Notes as laboratories of experimentation rather than mere blueprints for the novels.

What are the Notes? 

Manuscripts of Dickens’s Working Notes survive in whole or in part for ten of Dickens novels: The Old Curiosity Shop, Martin Chuzzlewit, Dombey and Son, David Copperfield, Bleak House, Hard Times, Little Dorrit, Great Expectations, Our Mutual Friend, and Edwin Drood. In most cases, Dickens divided a 7″x9″ sheet of paper in half for each installment, using the left-side for generative notes, memos, questions, and answers and the right-side for chapter-specific notations. Throughout his extended writing process, Dickens used these pages to test out combinations of characters and events. He asked himself questions, returned to answer them, and changed his mind in the process of writing, often using different ink colors only visible in high-resolution color images. The DDNP considers these temporal layers as essential facets of Dickens’s serial form.

What will the DDNP Provide? 

Currently under construction, this project aims to provide tools–including scholarly introductions, comprehensive annotations, pedagogical resources, and integration of notes and novel text–for users to explore and interpret these notes as interactive serial documents. Beginning with his last completed novel, Our Mutual Friend, the DDNP will gradually digitize, transcribe, and annotate these Notes and place them alongside, and in the context of, the serial parts of his novels, all of which were published in weekly or monthly parts. The DDNP aims to create new methodologies within digital humanities for engaging the temporal dynamics of serial form.

Who is involved? 

This project is directed by Anna Gibson (North Carolina State University, English) and Adam Grener (Victoria University of Wellington, NZ, English).

Funding and support for this project have been generously provided by Duquesne University, the Wimmer Family Foundation, Duquesne’s NEH Endowment fund, the Duke Ph.D. Lab, and NINES funding for DHSI. We are grateful for collaboration from the Pierpont Morgan Library, home of the Our Mutual Friend manuscript.


For more information about this project, please contact us at mail [AT] dickensnotes.com.