Dickens’s Working Notes for 'Dombey and Son' - cover image


Tony Laing

Published On





  • English

Print Length

224 pages (viii + 216)


Paperback210 x 16 x 273 mm(8.25" x 0.61" x 10.75")
Hardback210 x 14 x 273 mm(8.25" x 0.56" x 10.75")


Paperback1498g (52.84oz)
Hardback1708g (60.25oz)



OCLC Number





  • DSK


  • LIT004120
  • LIT024040


  • PR4588


  • critical edition
  • working notes
  • Dombey and Son
  • transcription
  • commentary
  • worksheets
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Dickens’s Working Notes for 'Dombey and Son'

  • Tony Laing (author)

This critical edition of the working notes for Dombey and Son (1848) is ideal for readers who wish to know more about Dickens’s craft and creativity. Drawing on the author’s manuscript in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London—and containing hyperlinked facsimiles—Dickens’s Working Notes for Dombey and Son offers a new digital transcription with a fresh commentary by Tony Laing. Unique and innovative, this is the only edition to make Dickens’s working methods visible. John Mullan has called Dombey and Son Dickens’s "first great novel.” Set amid the coming of the railways, it tells the story of a powerful man—typical of the commercial and banking magnates of the period—and the effect he has on his family and those around him. Laing presents the worksheets and other materials (transcribed for the first time) that together grew into the novel. Reading the book alongside this edition of the notes will enlarge the understanding of Dickens’s art among teachers, students, researchers and Dickens enthusiasts. As cultural tastes shift from print to digital, Dickens’s Working Notes will help preserve Dickens’s work for the future. The magnifying and linking functions of the edition mean that the notes are more easily and usefully—not to mention accessibly—exhibited here than elsewhere. Laing gives present-day readers the chance not only to recapture the effect of serial publication but also to gain greater insight into the making of a work which by general agreement, and Dickens’s own admission, has a special place in his development as a novelist. This close analysis of Dickens’s working notes uses Zoomify, allowing the reader of the HTML edition to greatly magnify the manuscript photographs and enabling more detailed examination.


This book is the result of a huge amount of scholarly labour, is comprehensively thought through, clearly and scrupulously presented, and genuinely useful to Dickens scholars. Dickens’s Working Notes for Dombey and Son is more accessible than the equivalent portion of Harry Stone's expensive standard publication, Dickens's Working Notes (1987), and superior in the quality and detail of the presentation, and the useful commentary, both to Stone and the various paperback editions of this pivotal novel in Dickens's career. Above all, it uses the possibilities of digital technology to very good effect: it makes an important advance on existing critical editions in its representation of Dickens's creative process.

Prof. Adrian Poole

University of Cambridge


Tony Laing’s Dickens’s Working Notes for "Dombey and Son” offers an extraordinarily thorough editorial apparatus, extensive introductions and appendices, and beautifully reproduced facsimiles and color-coded text. The organization of the book is perspicuous in a way that allows it to be authoritative in its details without being overwhelming.

Andrea Henderson

"Recent Studies in the Nineteenth Century". SEL Studies in English Literature 1500-1900 (1522-9270), vol. 58, no. 4, 2021. doi:10.1353/sel.2018.0038

Full Review

Table of Contents




Abbreviations, references and cross-references

General abbreviations used throughout



Section 1. Introduction to the working notes

Dickens’s "green cover” novels

History of the working notes

Materials of the working notes

Section 2. Transcribing the worksheets

Basic issues

Special issues

Comparison with other transcriptions

Section 3. Procedures in the worksheets

Formatting the worksheet

Entries on the left-hand half

Entries on the right-hand half

Entries in the double number

Section 4. Introduction to the worksheets

Introduction to the facsimiles

Numbering the entries in the transcriptions

Deletion in transcription

Dickens’s order of work as shown in the commentaries

Abbreviations and other conventions in the commentaries

Section 5. The worksheets

Worksheet for No.1 (verso)

Worksheet for No.1 (recto)

Worksheet for No.2

Worksheet for No.3

Worksheet for No.4

Worksheet for No.5

Worksheet for No.6

Worksheet for No.7

Worksheet for No.8

Worksheet for No.9

Worksheet for No.10

Worksheet for No.11

Worksheet for No.12

Worksheet for No.13

Worksheet for No.14

Worksheet for No.15

Worksheet for No.16

Worksheet for No.17

Worksheet for No.18

Worksheet for Nos.19 & 20

Section 6. Overview

Preliminary entries and the number of chapters

Chapter titles: When and where they are entered and revised

Memory, speech-making and planning

Chapter descriptions as plans

Chapter descriptions as summaries

Development of number and chapter planning in each quarter


A. Chapter number, title and length by part issue and date

B. Chapter title history with purpose and features of chapter description

C. Transcription of the List of Chapter Headings

D. Revisions to chapter titles in manuscript, worksheet and List

E. False starts in the manuscript at chapter openings

F. Use of blue inks in worksheet, manuscript, List and proofs