Beginning with his first novel, The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club, Dickens used a “part issue” format, with each part containing thirty-two pages of text with two engraved illustrations bound in green paper. There were twenty monthly parts appearing on the last day of the month, the last part a double issue containing both parts XIX and XX. Each part contained several pages of advertisements. The last part contained a title page, preface, dedication, and table of contents, so the purchaser could take the entire thing to a binder and have it made into a bound volume.
Until Dickens began publishing, the part issue had been used almost exclusively for reprinting popular works, such as encyclopedias and the Bible. Nine of his novels were published in this format, with the unfinished work The Mystery of Edwin Drood projected for twelve parts. His other six novels were published in magazines. After serialization the novels were offered on sale as bound volumes.