July Display: Charles Dickens

From July 19 to August 10, the Library showcases a special exhibit of rare 19th century antiques and books chronicling the life and works of author Charles Dickens’ as well as memorabilia showing how life was like in  Livingston, America and England during his lifetime (1812-1870).

These are from the collection of antiquarian and Dickens historian Michael Zakkour, a Livingston resident, who has been fascinated by the life and works of Charles Dickens for more than 25 years. 

Highlights include first edition copies of Dickens’  books including Bleak House, Nicholas Nickleby, and David Copperfield, early manuscripts, magazines like “All the Year Round” and “Household Words” and a rare letter written and signed by the author. Some first editions of the books he read and was influenced by are also displayed.

Talking of his fascination with Dickens, Michael has this to say:

 “Charles Dickens was a force of nature.  While he was, and is, one of the most well-loved and prolific authors of the 19th century, he was also a philanthropist, social justice reformer, magazine editor, world traveler, public performer and chronicler of the human condition.  His legacy shaped the laws we live under, the customs we practice, the words we speak and our modern view of human nature in all its beauty and brutality.

Only Shakespeare before him, and no one since, has shaped and added to the English language as deeply and broadly as Dickens. Dozens of words, phrases and names that sprang from his imagination remain a part of our vocabulary today.  We cannot understand English literature without a deep immersion into his works.

His impact in the 19th century was such that he helped defined the Victorian age as it was happening and our understanding of it ever since, so much so that the word “Dickensian” was added to the English dictionary as an adjective to describe key aspects of the 19th century.

Through his timeless novels, Oliver Twist, A Tale of Two Cities, Bleak House, Great Expectations, A Christmas Carol and dozens more, Dickens filled our imaginations with colorful characters, took us on wild adventures through London, America, and Paris, and helped create a holiday.”

 Also included in the current exhibit are English and American artifacts that reflect on the themes of his writing and the everyday lives of the people on both sides of the Ocean who considered him to be the foremost celebrity of the time.  

Michael Zakkour is also an accomplished collector and dealer of antiques (American, European, Asian), antiquities (Roman, Greek, Egyptian, Asian), rare books and manuscripts and his Dickens collection is a highlight of his many collections. 

 When not working with antiques and history Zakkour is VP at a management consulting firm focused on retail and ecommerce. Michael is also a writer; co author of “China’s Super Consumers  “ and his second book will be released soon.

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-Archana Chiplunkar, Adult Services Librarian 

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