Can you help us crack the Dickens Code?

Charles Dickens is famous for his iconic characters, gripping plots, and outspoken critique of Victorian society. But did you know that there are Dickens texts that have never been read? A letter on blue notepaper, stories dictated to a shorthand pupil, and a memo from Dickens to his publisher, all written in shorthand and waiting for someone to decode them.

Why have these texts proved so difficult to decipher? In part, because of Dickens himself. He learned a difficult shorthand system called Brachygraphy and wrote about the experience in his semi-autobiographical novel, David Copperfield, calling it a ‘savage stenographic mystery’. Dickens used shorthand throughout his life but while he was using the system, he was also changing it and inventing new symbols of his own.

Our project aims to create a community of decoders and recreate the system that he used – the Dickens Code. If you want to help, please subscribe and get cracking the Dickens Code.

The Dickens Code project is led by Dr Claire Wood (University of Leicester) in collaboration with Professor Hugo Bowles (University of Buckingham, previously University of Foggia) and a range of international partners. The initiative is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

The Dickens Code was awarded ‘Research Project of the Year: Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences’ at the Times Higher Education Awards 2022.