Unrecorded perhaps unique surviving set of Cruikshank’s illustrations to Oliver Twist, issued by the book’s publisher as a loose, possibly promotional, set simultaneous with first publication.
20 plates (150x243mm) are loosely contained in a bifolium printed wrapper which has separated along the spine. This bears a modified version of the title page of the book’s first edition in its first state. Dickens’ authorship is referred to as ‘Boz’ but in place of the book’s ‘Three Volumes’ designation we are offered: ‘Plates Designed and Etched by George Cruikshank.’ 20 plates are present, all browned and spotted with a little scuffing to edges and corners. The wrappers do not state the number of plates to be issued in this sequence so it’s not possible to tell whether the 20 present here are complete in themselves. By comparison with the 24 plates which appear in the first edition of the book this sequence which begins with the iconic image: ‘Oliver asks for more’ has 4 fewer than the printed book, lacking the plates dated to August 1837 (Oliver Recovering) and Mr Claypole (March 1838) as well as the last two plates: Fagin in the Condemned Cell and, Rose Maylie and Oliver - the cancelled Fireside plate. The paper-size of these images is significantly larger than that of the first edition, closer to that issued in the first serial publication, Bentley’s Miscellany, making this collection a fascinating hybrid of first serial and first book publication.
Oliver Twist was Dickens’ second novel after Pickwick Papers and uses the orphan’s compelling story as a vehicle for social commentary. The characters in Oliver Twist have the depth of character which is essential for the reader fully to immerse herself in the story and offers a vision of Victorian London that is unparallelled in its rich verisimilitude