For Release: Immediately
Department of External Affairs
Free Library of Philadelphia
1901 Vine Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103-1189
(215) 567-7710
FAX (215) 567-7850
Contact: Communications and Development
For Release: Immediately
Contact: Communications and Development



PHILADELPHIA, PA October 24, 2011—In celebration of the 200th anniversary of Charles Dickens’s birth in 2012, the Free Library of Philadelphia is proud to present the Year of Dickens 2012, featuring special events, literary salons, and many creative ways to celebrate “The Inimitable,” as he liked to call himself.

The Rare Book Department at Parkway Central Library is home to one of the finest collections of Dickens’s first editions, personal letters, original artwork, and theater ephemera in the world, largely gifted to the Library by two generous benefactors, William M. Elkins and D. Jacques Benoliel. Unique highlights of the Library’s Dickens Collection include Dickens’s writing desk and his pet raven, Grip—the same bird that is said to be the inspiration for Edgar Allan Poe’s famous poem!

The Free Library’s Year of Dickens 2012 will kick off on Monday, November 14 with an American Idol-inspired Dickens Idol Contest. The Contest is an open call audition to find an actor who best embodies Charles Dickens, and the winner will take on the role of this legendary author, bringing him back to life in a series of Year of Dickens 2012 events at the Free Library. On Tuesday, November 15, biographer Claire Tomalin will speak about her new book, Charles Dickens: A Life at a free author event at Parkway Central. In December, the Library will host a special event with a Victorian theme entitled A Dickens of a Dinner to celebrate Dickens and honor longtime Free Library champion Peter A. Benoliel.

Additionally this year, the Rare Book Department will mount the first two of its Dickens exhibitions: “From the Desk of Charles Dickens,” runs in the Rare Book Department from November 28, 2011 through May 25, 2012 and “Character Sketches form the World of Charles Dickens” runs in the Parkway Central Library’s West Gallery from December 2, 2011 through March 23, 2012.

“Charles Dickens’s colorful characters and timeless tales have inspired curiosity in many generations of readers throughout the world,” said Siobhan A. Reardon, President and Director of the Free Library of Philadelphia. “The Free Library is extremely proud of our extensive Dickens collection, and we’re equally as excited to be bringing Dickens to life in fun and engaging ways throughout 2012.”

Upcoming Year of Dickens 2012 events include:

A Dickens of a Christmas: For the entire month of December 2011, Philadelphia’s quaint Chestnut Hill neighborhood will transform itself into a festive Victorian village with special holiday and Dickens performances, extended store hours, and Dickens-themed activities up and down Germantown Avenue.

Literary Salons: Discussing a different Dickens novel each month, our literary salons meet on the third Thursday of each month at 6:30 p.m. from January through December 2012 at Parkway Central Library and are open to all Dickens readers, from veterans to newcomers.

Author Events and Performances: Throughout 2012, the Free Library will host Dickens-themed author events and lively performances of some of his best-known theatrical works.

Birthday Celebration: Our year-long celebration goes into full swing in February 2012 with a major bash to celebrate Mr. Dickens’s 200th birthday—with cake, of course!

Dickens in Philadelphia Tour: Join us as we follow in Dickens’s footsteps from his 1842 visit to Philadelphia, led by the dynamic and engaging Dickens aficionado, Edward Pettit.

Drinking with Dickens: Join us at several watering holes around town, where we’ll sample brews and concoctions first popularized in Victorian London as we discuss the far-reaching legacy of Dickens’s work.

Steampunking Dickens: Let your imagination run wild as we steampunk Dickens throughout the year with special parties and a steampunked version of one of his classics released serially throughout the year—just as his original stories were.

Digital Dickens: View our digitized Charles Dickens collection online at, featuring detailed images of many of the Rare Book Department’s gems. Our website also includes detailed descriptions about the man, his life, and his works, as well as a blog dedicated to all things Dickens.

The Free Library is proud to join with community partners including the Chestnut Hill Business Association and with local literary scholar Edward Pettit who will assist in planning Year of Dickens 2012 programs and events. More events will continue to be added over the next several months, so for up-to-date details, including times and locations for these and other events, please visit

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The Free Library of Philadelphia system consists of 49 branches, three regional libraries, the Parkway Central Library, and the Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. With more than 6 million visits annually, the Free Library is one of the most widely used educational and cultural institutions in Philadelphia.




Department of External Affairs, Free Library of Philadelphia, 1901 Vine Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103-1189
(215) 567-7710, FAX (215) 567-7850