WISE, Thomas James (forger); DICKENS, Charles.

To Be Read at Dusk.

London: 1852 [i.e. 1891] Stock Code: 138197

The Estelle Doheny copy

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The Estelle Doheny copy of this Thomas James Wise forgery. Wise (1859-1937), the most prominent bibliographer of his day, funded his bibliophilia and fuelled his vanity by forging 19th-century literary publications, taking a known text, and producing non-existent "privately printed" editions in pamphlet form, which he sold to wealthy book collectors - in this instance, Dickens's To Be Read at Dusk, first printed in The Keepsake in 1852, here purportedly issued by Dickens in a pamphlet of ten leaves. Carter and Pollard revealed the forgery as part of their 1934 exposé of Wise, An Enquiry Into the Nature of Certain Nineteenth Century Pamphlets - "the analysis of the paper showed that it composed of esparto and straw: as esparto was not introduced into the manufacture of paper until 1861, nine years after the date on which the pamphlet was supposed to be printed, there can be no doubt that it is a forgery" (pp. 185-187).

The early owners of the volume were unfortunate victims, commissioning an attractive Zaehnsdorf binding and slipcase to dress the volume; an old tipped-in catalogue description continues the attribution as the original privately-printed version. It entered the collection of the American popular novelist and playwright George Barr McCutcheon (1866-1928), with his bookplate to front pastedown, and sold at his sale (American Art Association, April 21, 1926, lot 126), entering then or soon after into the esteemed collection of Carrie Estelle Betzold Doheny (1875-1958), with her red morocco gilt label to front free endpaper. Doheny was renowned for her generosity and decency, and she is recorded as being "particularly upset" when she discovered that Wise was a forger, not least as he had inscribed a book to her. The legendary book dealer A. S. W. Rosenbach comforted her with the arguments that Wise's forgeries were executed for love of books rather than for mercenary reasons, that she should not be disheartened in her collecting, and that the forgeries may one day be sought after by collectors (as indeed they are). It is recorded that Doheny was "impressed" with these views, and the fact that she kept the forgery within her collection is perhaps testament to the persuasiveness of Rosenbach's arguments (for Doheny's discovery of the forgeries, see Wolf and Fleming, Rosenbach: A Biography, 1960, pp. 397-8). Doheny bequeathed the collection to St. John's Seminary in Camarillo, California, which opted to sell the collection to raise revenue in the celebrated Doheny sale, where this book was sold, Christie's New York, 17-18 October, 1988, lot 1239. Afterwards in the Lawrence Drizen collection of Charles Dickens, his sale, Sotheby's, 24 September 2019, lot 157.

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Octavo, 20 pp (223 x 145 mm). Early 20th-century brown calf by Zaehnsdorf, black morocco label, triple gilt fillet to covers, gilt turn-ins, grey endpapers, top edge gilt. Housed in a red cloth chemise within red quarter morocco slipcase, spine lettered in gilt, brown cloth sides.


Binding lightly rubbed, front joint with minute splits at ends, some pages opened ever so slightly roughly. A very good copy.


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