[DICKENS, Charles]. Oliver Twist; or, the Parish Boy's Progress. By "Boz." London: Richard Bentley, 1838.
3 volumes, 12o (190 x 117 mm). (Some offsetting to title in first volume and elsewhere from plates, some occasional spotting, endpapers lightly foxed.) Etched frontispiece in each volume and 21 plates after George Cruikshank (some minor darkening to some margin extremes, occasional spotting). PRESENTATION BINDING of dark green hard-grained morocco gilt, sides with double gilt fillet borders surrounding large central gilt arabesque urn design, interlaced with gilt branch, leaf and floral tools, smooth spines with gilt-lettered title and volume number within shaped compartment using same or similar leaf and flora tools, each dated "London 1838" at foot above a single gilt rule, board edges gilt, gilt inner dentelles, edges gilt, green silk markers bound in, stamp-signed "Bound by Hayday. 21 Little Queen Street, Holborn." at top of each front pastedown (some light wear to spine ends, minor rubbing to joints and extremities, half-titles and insterted advertisements not preserved); green cloth drop-back folding case.
Provenance: WILLIAM HARRISON AINSWORTH (1805-1882), fellow novelist and close friend of Dickens (presentation inscription on title of volume one [a few letters very slightly shaved by the binder]); Kenyon Starling (purchased from John F. Fleming in 1973).
FIRST EDITION, FIRST ISSUE, with only authorship ascribed to "Boz" on each title, but with the replaced plate at p. 312 in vol. III showing the Scene at Agnes's Tomb (the one Dickens preferred over the 'Fireside' plate he thought too sentimental).
AN OUTSTANDING ASSOCIATION COPY, INSCRIBED BY DICKENS TO WILLIAM HARRISON AINSWORTH.
Ainsworth met Dickens in 1834, when Dickens was working as a reporter for the Morning Chronicle in the Strand around the time that his identity as "Boz" became an open secret. He soon became one of Dickens's closest friends, and had an enormous impact on his burgeoning career. Seven years his senior, he introduced the young Dickens to his vast and colorful literary circle that included the publishers, artists and journalists who helped establish his early reputation. It was through him that Dickens was introduced to his first publishers John Macrone (who published his first book Sketches by Boz) and Richard Bentley; his future biographer John Forster; and George Cruikshank, the artist who would illustrate Oliver Twist, among other works.
Soon after publication of Oliver Twist, along with John Forster, Dickens and Ainsworth formed the 'Cerberus Club'--the membership of which included only themselves. "They rode and dined with each other constantly, and drank toasts to each other out of special glasses appropriately etched with a three-headed emblem...It was a high point, as well as one of the happiest incidents, of Ainsworth's career. For, despite the huge success of Jack Sheppard, he was now being steadily eclipsed by the young man whose first book he had recommended to its publisher" (Johnson, p. 226). Ainsworth succeeded Dickens as editor of Bentley's Miscellany in 1840, and later went to edit his own Ainsworth's Magazine from 1842 to 1853.
When they met, Ainsworth was embarking on a series of novels, exploring the lives of thieves, the first of which Rookwood, about the famous highwayman Dick Turpin, won him enormous fame. Interestingly, it was reissued with illustrations by Cruikshank, who had been interested for years in collaborating on a written life of a thief. His second book, Jack Sheppard, about a romantic young burglar, appeared at the same time as Oliver Twist in Bentley's Miscellany. Ainsworth collected material about eighteenth-century miscreants, including James Sykes (a companion of Jack Sheppard) who likely was the inspiration for Bill Sikes. And although Cruikshank is sometimes credited with suggesting the idea to Dickens of writing a Hogarthian poor boy's "progress", Ainsworth's contribution to Oliver Twist was no less significant.
SPECIAL PRESENTATION BINDINGS ARE RARELY FOUND ON DICKENS'S PRESENTATION COPIES, and those that do appear seem to date from this early period, and were reserved for his closest associates. A copy of Nicholas Nickleby (1839) inscribed also to Ainsworth and similarly bound in morocco (although apparently unsigned by binder) was sold at Christie's New York in 1993. And in this sale, two presentation copies from 1841 are bound in matching full polished calf by the same binder as here, similarly stamp-signed by Hayday, but also both contain an additional stamp "Chapman and Hall": The Old Curiosity Shop (1841), inscribed to William Charles Macready, and Barnaby Rudge (1841) inscribed to Sir Thomas Noon Talfourd (lots 77 and 80, respectively). Hayday appears to have been Dickens's, and Chapman and Hall's, preferred binder for special presentation copies at this period, as evidenced in John Forster's recollection: "... a copy of [Pickwick] I received from [Dickens] on the 11th of December  in the most luxurious of Hayday's bindings, with a note [by Dickens:] 'Chapman and Hall have just sent me... three 'extra-super' bound copies of Pickwick, as per specimen inclosed. The first I forward to you, the second I have presented to our good friend Ainsworth, and the third Kate has retained for herself. Accept your copy with one sincere and most comprehensive expression of my warmest friendship'" (Forster, 1911, vol.1, p.86).
Eckel, pp. 59-60; Smith I:4. (3)