London’s The Victoria and Albert Museum has sent out a public plea for funds to preserve the original manuscripts of three novels by Charles Dickens.
It’s seeking a total of £25,000, of which half has already been raised, to properly conserve the low-grade blue writing paper Dickens used to write A Tale of Two Cities, David Copperfield and the unfinished The Mystery of Edwin Drood.
These are the manuscripts that Dickens would have sent in to the printers for typesetting before receiving the galley proofs for correction in return. The V&A also has some of those proofs too, and so it will be possible for visitors to trace the editing process that went on.Though the pages are blotched and splattered with ink, Dickens’ original writing is still legible
The funds raised will go toward paying a specialist to remount each leaf on non-acidic backing paper and then steaming out the creases. The pages will then be put into protective boxes and units that have safe levels of humidity.
The V&A, one of many British art institutions suffering from recent cuts to funding by the U.K. government, says it wants to be able to display the manuscripts in time for 2012, the bicentenary of Dickens’s birth. The author died in 1870 at age 58.By then, the museum hopes to exhibit the papers at the National Art Library as part of the celebrations.
Ironically, these manuscripts were subject to a botched conservation effort in the 1960s, but the “experts” utilized backing paper that was too acidic.
Dickens fans can make a donation on the V&A website.