I have written the bulk of my manuscripts long hand, and have never claimed neatness nor spelling as a strong suit. However, my manuscripts look pristine when compared to Dickens' Great Expectations. To avoid too much crossing out I do write only on every second line, and alternate on the reverse of the page. Most of my changes can be made in the empty line above each hand written sentence. And - patting myself on the back - my margins are generally clear. But as to sppeling...
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Dickens manuscript illuminates author's workings
A new facsimile edition of Great Expectations, showing the writer's decisions and revisions, provides fresh insight into his creative genius
by Alison Flood
Great Expectations in manuscript. Photograph: Cambridge University Press
Dense with ink, a spider web of crossings-out, rewritings and even text-speak, the manuscript of Charles Dickens's much-loved novel Great Expectations – which has been published in facsimile for the first time – offers a unique insight into the mind of the great novelist.
Dickens bound and gave his manuscript of Great Expectations to his friend Chauncy Hare Townshend, who bequeathed it to the Wisbech and Fenland Museum in 1868. Fragile and in its original binding, the 1861 manuscript has been at the museum ever since, available to view on the first Saturday of every month but otherwise kept in a safe. Now the museum has worked with Cambridge University Press to scan and reproduce the manuscript in book format for the first time.
It shows Dickens's terrible handwriting, how his lines sloped down to the right and how he would squeeze a few extra words into the space this left at the bottom of a page, and his notes on the times of the tides, crucial to Magwitch's capture at the end of the book.