Facets of Dickens’ world at the Newsam Library

Two current exhibitions on Charles Dickens, reviewed on this blog, draw you into children’s worlds in the 19th century.

Book cover with painting of four young children in fine clothes playing with toy bricks.You imagine, perhaps, reading or being read to from an illustrated volume of stories on a cosy armchair, by the glow of the fireplace or the bright light of the newest lamps… or else crawling down mine shafts or climbing up chimneys in relentless shifts, blackened by the coal or soot around you, invariably hungry.

If you want to find out more about Dickens or the history of childhood in general, you are in the right place at UCL Libraries. You are particularly well positioned for both at the Newsam Library, UCL Institute of Education, with its focus on the history of education, comparative education, and resources for children and teachers.

First of all, you will find some of Dickens’ works at the IOE and more at the UCL Main Library. You can choose between the original texts and abridged versions, illustrated editions and graphic novels, film adaptations and audio-books. Consult the catalogue to locate your items of interest on the shelves of the Curriculum Resources Collection.

Book cover with colourful drawing of Victorian house, furniture, toys, etc.

If you look for ideas on how to study and teach texts by Dickens, the Newsam Library stocks adaptations, study guides to the literary texts, and non-fiction for readers of all ages.

• Charles Dickens Museum at 48 Doughty Street.

If you need to tell children about their peers in Victorian times, about homes and cities, schools and factories, horse-carts and railways, toys and games, food and feasts, you are sure to find lovely material.

Charles Dickens Museum!

Book cover with comic-style illustration of candle-lit hall in mansion.

For Great expectations, the IOE has got two abridged and illustrated versions and several study guides. But that’s not where it stops.

One edition intrigues with a graphic novel and audio-book; the text is adapted for a lower vocabulary and has a glossary.

Another title around this coming-of-age novel combines a dramatisation and a study guide in audio format.

UCL Main Library has, of course, the original text, while UCL Special Collections boasts a copy of 1891 once owned by George Orwell.


Decorative book cover with silhouettes of people and ghosts.Bright red book cover withschoolboy playing Scrooge, barefoot in nightcap.For Dickens’ world-famous story A Christmas carol, see the delightful blogpost What the Dickens! by Beverley Hinton. She covers the background and many manifestations, both in print and on stage and screen.

For more advice on researching the history and sociology of childhood, consult a librarian – and watch this space!

'Great expectations' and 'Hard times' in various formats plus study guides.Selection of children's books and textbooks relating to Charles Dickens.Library trolley with books on history of childhood in Europe, China, etc.

A signature of Charles Dickens, energetic, in one stroke, underlined many times.Exhibition dates:

Picture credits:

Drawing of three spinning tops.

  • Charles Dickens Museum at 48 Doughty Street. Credit, Siobhan Doran; photography copyright, Dickens Museum.
  • Spinning tops: From ‘Children’s games throughout the year’ (1949) by Leslie Daiken.
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