2012 marks the bicentenary year of the birth of Charles Dickens, one of the greatest writers of the Victorian age. Thanks to a recent flurry of apps and ebooks, Dickens’ life and work has been thoroughly brought into the digital age; whether you’re looking for a quick-fix of biographical information or want to find out what life was really like on the mean streets of Victorian London.
1. Dickens: History In An Hour
If you love your history, you may already be familiar with the History In An Hour ebook and app series. Its latest title, ‘Dickens In An Hour’, uses a combination of diary extracts, personal letters and photographs to cover all the facts and major events of Charles Dickens’ life, from the dark days of the Blacking Factory to the secret affair with Ellen Ternan. The book also includes a timeline of key dates and a collection of short biographies of those at the heart of Dickens’ inner circle. Dickens In An Hour is available on all digital formats, including Kindle, and as an audiobook for £1.49.
2. Dickens’ Dark London
The second app on our list was developed by the Museum of London to coincide with the launch of its latest exhibition, Dickens and London. Beautifully illustrated and narrated by the Sherlock Holmes’ actor Mark Strong, the app takes the form of a graphic novel that transports readers on a journey to the places that inspired some of Dickens’ most memorable characters and stories, including the infamous Seven Dials slum and the notorious Newgate Prison. In true Dickens’ style, the app is published in monthly instalments and is available from iTunes. The first edition is free with subsequent editions priced at £1.49.
3. Dickens’ Underworld
If you have an interest in the darker side of Victorian London and a few hours to spare then Dickens’ Underworld might be the app for you. Like other apps in the RAMA series, Dickens Underworld is a walking tour that combines text and historical images to show readers how London looked in Dickens’ day. The author, Julian Walker, traces the flow of the River Fleet through the Clerkenwell area of the city, exploring this working-class neighbourhood and its influence on Dickens’ fiction. Waypoints include the Fleet Prison and the setting for the unforgettable Fagin’s Den. The RAMA app is free to download from the iTunes store but Dickens’ Underworld will cost $2.99.
4. Daily Life in Victorian London
For an authentic taste of life in Victorian London, look no further than Lee Jackson’s extraordinary anthology. Compiled from a wealth of primary sources that includes diaries, newspaper extracts and guidebooks, Jackson’s anthology is an accessible and enjoyable piece of social history. From the ‘can can’ to the Underground, Jackson leaves no subject uncovered and offers a rare glimpse into Dickens’ world. Daily Life in Victorian London is available on Kindle for £1.85.
5. British Library 19th Century Books
With historical ebooks freely available in the public domain, the British Library’s latest app might not seem so exciting. But these are no run of the mill ebooks; digitally scanned in colour, the British Library’s titles come with original embossed covers, beautifully engraved illustrations and a range of subjects, from natural history to travel writing. So why not get acquainted with some of Dickens’ literary peers and experience books as he once did? Available for iPad, the app runs on a subscription basis, priced at £1.99 every 30 days, but there are a selection of free titles to browse.
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