New exhibition showcases Dickens in Aberdeen

A new exhibition at the University of Aberdeen's Library's Gallery is now open telling the story of Dickens's visits to Aberdeen in 1858 and 1866 and showcasing the University's unique collection of his novels.

‘An Audience with Charles Dickens’ will also explore his prolific output as a writer and his unusual side-line, as a performer of his own work.

Renowned Dickens expert and former University of Aberdeen lecturer, Dr Paul Schlicke said: “Dickens visited Scotland many times throughout his life and had many Scottish friends and connections, not least in Aberdeen.

“It is cause for celebration that, 150 years after his second visit to Aberdeen, the University Library is mounting a splendid exhibition of materials selected from its distinguished Dickens collection. The exhibition will also coincide with the 110th annual conference of the international Dickens Fellowship in July.”

Visitors to the exhibition will be able to view rare first editions of all Dickens’s novels, from his first work, The Pickwick Papers (1836) through to his last, unfinished book, The Mystery of Edwin Drood (1870). The University’s Special Collections Centre has one of the most distinguished collections of books by and about Dickens anywhere in the world and this is the first time that all 15 first editions of the novels have been displayed together at the university.

In the process of researching the exhibition, Exhibitions Officer, Jennifer Shaw contacted key institutions with similar collections of works by Dickens.

“I was surprised to learn that although important libraries such as Harvard University’s Houghton Library and the Morgan Library in New York also have first editions of Dickens’s novels, Aberdeen’s collection is unusual in its completeness and because the majority of the books were acquired at the time of publication, not retrospectively after Dickens’s place in the history of English literature had been established,” she said.

“Even more exciting was the discovery that there doesn’t appear to have been an exhibition featuring all 15 first editions together, anywhere in the world, for over half a century. We are delighted to be offering visitors a unique experience, whether you are a Dickens expert or new to these fantastic books.”

The exhibition will include audio extracts of the four readings that Dickens gave in Aberdeen to evoke the appearance and atmosphere of the music hall stages that became the writer’s favourite platform for his stories.

The exhibition is accompanied by an engaging programme, launching with a talk on Thursday March 24 by Dr Schlicke who will give a fascinating account of ‘Dickens in Aberdeen’.  The Library will also host readings from Oliver Twist and The Pickwick Papers as part of the May Festival and a Dickens-themed family fun evening on Saturday June 18. As part of the Dickens Fellowship’s International Conference, which is being held for the first time in Aberdeen.  Information about these and other talks and events will be listed on the Special Collections website: