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Charles Dickens works unearthed in digitisation project

25th June 2012

A project to digitise the 19th century journals that Charles Dickens edited has unearthed a number of previously unattributed works that experts believe were written by the author, as well as contemporaries including Elizabeth Gaskell and Wilkie Collins.

Between 1850 and 1870, Dickens edited two of the 19th century's most successful weeklies - Household Words and All The Year Round - though the content of these publications has largely been lost to time, until now.

Last year, Dr John Drew, editor of Dickens Journals Online, issued a plea for volunteers to take part in a project to upload freely accessible, online versions of the journals.

In total, 3,000 people responded and began the arduous task of editing 30,000 pages of text, with the aim of completing the project before the 200th anniversary of Dickens' birth in February this year.

Though the task was eventually completed a few weeks behind schedule, the volunteers unearthed evidence that Dickens' contribution to the weeklies went far beyond simply editing them.

Dr Drew explained: 'Dickens would often write short opinion pieces. He would chip in any topic from prison policy to working class literacy. There are unattributed pieces in the journals in his style. As editor, he would also top and tail other people's work.'

As Elizabeth Gaskell and Wilkie Collins were also regular contributors to the publications, Dr Drew believes it may be possible to attribute certain pieces to these authors in future.

He is now seeking further funding to run the newly digitised articles through a computer program, which would closely examine the syntax used in each piece and attribute them to authors based on stylistic characteristics.

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