3.86 million words between two covers?
May 8, 2019 12:21 PM   Subscribe

Does this single-volume omnibus edition of every Charles Dickens novel I swear I once saw really exist?

About eight years ago, while browsing in the rare books cabinet at the After-Words Used bookshop in Chicago, I saw an absolutely mammoth book called something like The Novels of Charles Dickens. It was a dark hardcover with no jacket, as bigger or bigger than an unabridged dictionary, and probably not printed before 1900 or after 1960. Inside were all fifteen of Dickens' novels, printed fine in three columns per page.

It cost $100, which I couldn't afford at the time. When I returned a couple months later with readier cash, the book was gone.

I have never seen another copy, in life or online, and I'm very close to convincing myself that I dreamed the whole encounter, or that I only saw a more plausible omnibus containing just three or four massive books, or massively abridged summaries of the Dickens corpus. Is there any chance the single-volume collection was real? And if so, who published the thing, and why?
posted by Iridic to Writing & Language (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

This looks to be it. Not the Kindle version at the same link, but the hardcover (this image).
posted by WCityMike at 12:44 PM on May 8, 2019

posted by WCityMike at 12:45 PM on May 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

This Ebay listing has more pictures of what looks to be the same thing
posted by brook horse at 12:49 PM on May 8, 2019

Thanks! I was way off on the year.

From the ebay description: "10.80 X 9.20 X 4.20 inches; 2429 pages. Weighs 9 pounds." Holy crap!
posted by Iridic at 1:30 PM on May 8, 2019

Here is an affordable eBay example
posted by Dmenet at 1:34 PM on May 8, 2019

That book was published by "Octopus Books Limited"; they seem to be a going concern, although now owned by Hachette. They're a non-fiction publisher with a list of imprints that's heavy on cookbooks, reference books, Bibles, coffee-table books, and the like.

Given the publisher and the rather unwieldy size, plus the fancy tooled leather binding, I'd lean towards it being intended largely as an ornamental book. They were sort of A Thing in the 1980s. (I'm trying to hunt down the long-running SkyMall ad for them, which I remember seeing consistently throughout the 80s and into the 90s, to see who that publisher was, but I can't find a scan of it anywhere.)

R.R. Donnelley, the US printer, is noted in some circles for publishing the Lakeside Classics series of books, which are now considered rather collectible, mostly for the quality of the physical object rather than the content.
posted by Kadin2048 at 7:01 PM on May 8, 2019 [2 favorites]

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