The Case of the Initial Letter

Charles Dickens and the politics of the dual alphabet

By Gavin Edwards

The Case of the Initial Letter


  • eBook

Book Information

  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN: 978-1-5261-4629-8
  • Pages: 184
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £85.00
  • Published Date: July 2020
  • BIC Category: LITERARY CRITICISM / Modern / 19th Century, LITERARY COLLECTIONS / European / English, Irish, Scottish, Welsh, Literature & literary studies / General, Literature & literary studies / Literary studies: fiction, novelists & prose writers, Literature & literary studies / Literary studies: c 1800 to c 1900
  • Series: Interventions: Rethinking the Nineteenth Century


The book analyses attempts by Dickens and other nineteenth-century writers to challenge established ways of using the distinction between upper and lower case letters, in the interests of a wider radicalism. It discusses Dickens's satire - on 'Shares' in Our Mutual Friend, on Paul Dombey's position as the 'Son' of Dombey and Son - alongside the proto-modernist typography of suffragist poet Augusta Webster and the work of Marx's translators transforming German conventions of capitalisation into English under the influence of Dickens and Carlyle. Placing these innovations within the history of the dual alphabet from its invention by Carolingian scribes to its rejection by modernist poets and the Bauhaus printers, the book tracks the dual alphabet through Dickens's manuscripts, corrected proofs, and the 'prompt copies' for his public Readings, highlighting distinct ways in which writing, printing and speech produce meaning.


1 Introduction: The case of the initial letter
2 Typographic leveling in an age of revolution
3 The Land of Liberty
4 Dombey - and Son - and Daughter
5 People, things, and abstractions
6 Print capitalism
7 Freedom, Equality, Property and Bentham
8 Writin'large
9 PIP and D O C T O R M A R I G O L D
10 Dickens, the suffragists and proto-modernism



Gavin Edwards is Emeritus Professor of English at the University of South Wales

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