Containing around 1500 letters, important presentation copies and first editions of his works, original illustrations, “relics,” and many other items, the Rare Book Department of the Free Library of Philadelphia is home to one of the finest Charles Dickens collections in the world. The bequest of William McIntire Elkins, who died in 1947, brought his entire library, containing major collections of Dickens, Oliver Goldsmith, and Americana, as well as miscellaneous literary treasures. With the Elkins bequest came the gift of the room itself with its furnishings, through the generosity of his heirs.
Following the Elkins bequest, the Dickens collection continued to grow through the generosity of D. Jacques Benoliel, his wife, and his son Peter. Peter Benoliel is today an integral part and generous friend of the Free Library of Philadelphia and its Rare Book Department, and is on the Library’s Board of Directors and Board of Trustees.
2012 has been designated as the Free Library’s “Year of Dickens,” as it marks the 200th anniversary of Dickens’s birth on February 7. The library has numerous planned events throughout the calendar year in celebration, from “book club”-like literary salons to special guests. Please consult the Free Library’s Web site for more information on this year, as well as the Year of Dickens brochure, available at the front desk.
The second of two exhibitions focusing on Dickens in 2012, “At Home on the Stage” investigates Dickens’s relationship with the theatre.