Images from the Gregory Household Edition are reproduced courtesy of Dickens enthusiast and bibliophile Dan Calinescu of Toronto, Ontario.

The curious story of the copyright for Great Expectations on American shores is complicated by the competing interests of three Yankee publishers. Assigned American serial rights by Dickens himself in exchange for significant financial considerations, Harper and Brothers applied for American copyright for Great Expectations on 15 November 1860, and then began publishing the novel in weekly instalments with wood-engravings by John McLenan on 24 November 1860. Possibly printed only for copyright purposes is a 168-page Peterson volume with no illustrations, derived directly from the text published serially in Harper's; it is undated, but is likely from early August 1861. Yet another publisher, a pirate eager to bring out an edition as soon as possible, was Gardner A. Fuller of Boston; this firm's single volume octavo, illustrated by A. K. Kipps, was probably published later in 1861, but is undated; it was followed by another single-volume edition, dated 1862, with the Kipps' wood-engravings revised and sharpened as steel engravings by F. O. Freeman. Boston's Ticknor Fields, Dickens's official American publisher with volume rights, did not bring out a version of Great Expectations until 1866.

New York publisher James G. Gregory's uniform octavo edition of the works of Charles Dickens (initiated in 1860) in fifty-five volumes in dark green cloth includes a pirated Great Expectations with a pair of frontispieces by Darley. Since the serial run of the novel did not finish in Harper's Weekly until 3 August, 1861, Gregory was quick off the mark in registering his American copyright (reified by the book's having an American-born illustrator) on 26 August 1861, thereby stealing a march on the sanctioned edition issued by Philadelphia publisher T. B. Peterson, who did not enter his one-volume edition of the novel for copyright protection with the Library of Congress until 8 November 1861, even though the Peterson single-volume version like the English triple-decker was made available for sale in July, whereas the Gregory volume did not go on sale until September, 1861.

So, although Gregory's was the first edition to deposit copies at then Library of Congress, Peterson's was the first "published" — put into the hands of the public. [Loomis 19]

The Illustrations


Dickens, Charles. Christmas Books. Works of Charles Dickens. Household Edition. 55 vols. Il. F. O. C. Darley. 2 vols. New York: James G. Gregory, 1861.

Dickens, Charles. Great Expectations. Works of Charles Dickens. Household Edition. 55 vols. Il. F. O. C. Darley and John Gilbert. 2 vols. New York: James G. Gregory, 1861.

Dickens, Charles. Great Expectations. Il. Kipps. Boston: Gardner A. Fuller, n. d. [1861?].

Dickens, Charles. Great Expectations. Il. F. O. Freeman, from the original wood-engravings by A. K. Kipps. Boston and Rochester: Gardner A. Fuller and J. F. Hone, 1862.

Dickens, Charles. Pickwick Papers. Works of Charles Dickens. Fireside Edition. Il. F. O. C. Darley, Sir John Gilbert, George Cruikshank, and Phiz. 2 vols. New York and Cambridge: Riverside Press, and Hurd and Houghton, 1872.

Kitton, Frederic G. "F. O. C. Darley." Dickens and His Illustrators. London: Chapman and Hall, 1899. Rpt. Honolulu: University Press of the Pacific, 2004. Pp. 223-224.

Loomis, Richard Stillman, Jr. "45." First American Editions of Charles Dickens. The Calinescu Collection, Part II. Yarmouth, ME: Sumner and Stillman, 2012.

Dickens, Charles. Great Expectations. Volume 19 of the Edition de Grande Luxe. Ed. Richard Garnett. London: Merrill and Baker, 1900.

Last modified 10 February 2014