In 1851, Charles Dickens decided to fill two bookcases in his study with made-up books. Dickens sent the following list of entirely fictitious titles to a bookbinder named Thomas Robert Eeles, in order to have the imitation book-backs produced. Not all of the titles were of his own invention; some seem to be drawn from other sources. Part social commentary, part simple wordplay, this letter is a treasure trove of Dickens’ notoriously biting wit.
Household Words Office
Wednesday Evening, Twenty-Second October, 1851
My Dear Mr. Eeles,—I send you the list I have made for the book-backs. I should like the History of a Short Chancery Suit to come at the bottom of one recess, and the Catalogue of Statues of the Duke of Wellington at the bottom of the other. If you should want more titles, and will let me know how many, I will send them to you.—Faithfully yours.
List of Imitation Book-Backs.
Five Minutes in China. 3 vols.
Forty Winks at the Pyramids. 2 vols.
Abernethy on the Constitution. 2 vols.
Mr. Green’s Overland Mail. 2 vols.
Captain Cook’s Life of Savage. 2 vols.
A Carpenter’s Bench of Bishops. 2 vols.
Toots’ Universal Letter-Writer. 2 vols.
Orson’s Art of Etiquette.
Downeaster’s Complete Calculator.
History of the Middling Ages. 6 vols.
Jonah’s Account of the Whale.
Captain Parry’s Virtues of Cold Tar.
Kant’s Ancient Humbugs. 10 vols.
Bowwowdom. A Poem.
The Quarrelly Review. 4 vols.
The Gunpowder Magazine. 4 vols.
Steele. By the Author of “Ion.”
The Art of Cutting the Teeth.
Matthew’s Nursery Songs. 2 vols.
Paxton’s Bloomers. 5 vols.
On the Use of Mercury by the Ancient Poets.
Drowsy’s Recollections of Nothing. 3 vols.
Heavyside’s Conversations with Nobody. 3 vols.
Commonplace Book of the Oldest Inhabitant. 2 vols.
Growler’s Gruffiology, with Appendix. 4 vols.
The Book of Moses and Sons. 2 vols.
Burke (of Edinburgh) on the Sublime and Beautiful. 2 vols.
King Henry the Eighth’s Evidences of Christianity. 5 vols.
Miss Biffin on Deportment.
Morrison’s Pills Progress. 2 vols.
Lady Godiva on the Horse.
Munchausen’s Modern Miracles. 4 vols.
Richardson’s Show of Dramatic Literature. 12 vols.
Hansard’s Guide to Refreshing Sleep. As many volumes as possible.