frontispiece and title page
The New York Public Library, Berg Collection of
English and American Literature

Serial publication, or books in parts

Books in parts may be defined as works by an author or authors which are published piecemeal over a period of time (often once a month), with each part (or issue) having its separate cover (also known as a wrapper). Serial publication was especially popular, as well as profitable, in the 19th century, and the works of such important authors as Scott, Thackeray, Trollope, Mrs. Gaskell and of course Dickens were often first published serially, generally in monthly parts, with hardbound editions to follow. It is indeed difficult today to recapture the excitement with which readers awaited the monthly installments of their favorite authors, above all each "new Dickens," in its familiar green or bluish-green wrapper.

The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club, No. 4 (July 1836), the first of the monthly parts for which Hablot K. Browne, better known by his sobriquet "Phiz," supplied the etchings, although for this number he still signed himself by the nom de crayon "Nemo" (Latin for "no one"), which he would shortly abandon for the pen-name that would make him famous. The cover design of the wrapper remains that of Robert Seymour, the original Pickwick illustrator, who, early in the run of the series, unhappily took his own life during a "temporary derangement."