Jane Austen Program at Free Library of Springfield Township

springfield_programIf you are or will be in the Philadelphia area this weekend, I’ll be speaking at the Free Library of Springfield Township in Wyndmoor, PA (Montgomery County) on Saturday, June 23. Doors open at 1:00 p.m. The talk is titled “From Handmade to Digital: Jane Austen’s Publication History” and, as you might have guessed, is about the history of the publication of Jane Austen’s novels from her lifetime to the present.

During Jane Austen’s lifetime, the publication of her books was a completely manual operation: the manuscript was handwritten, the type was set by hand, inked by hand, and printed on handmade paper, and then bound by hand. Two centuries later, we can carry Jane Austen’s novels everywhere we go on our smartphones. Margaret C. Sullivan will explain the evolution of publication between the 19th and 21st centuries, illustrated with examples of editions of Austen’s novels and images of the publishing process in Jane Austen’s time.

I’ve illustrated the presentation with lots of images of the covers of Austen novels over the years from Jane Austen Cover to Cover (yes, including some of the funny ones). I’ll talk about the process of publication in Jane Austen’s time, including both how writers got published, how they were paid, and how the books were made.

You don’t really have to know a lot about her novels to enjoy this talk, I think. If you like books and history, you’ll enjoy the program.

This event is sponsored by the Jane Austen Society of North America, Eastern Pennsylvania Region. You don’t have to be a JASNA member to attend, however; this event is free and open to the public. We will have some snacks (including my semi-famous homemade hummus) and there will also be a Book Swap table for Jane Austen-related books; bring along any books you would like to rehome, and see if anyone else has left something interesting and new-to-you!

The Free Library of Springfield Township is my home library and brand spanking new–a completely new building and it’s just beautiful! I’m so grateful to the library for letting us have our program there, and I’m excited about it, too. I hope to see my fellow Janeites there on Saturday.

Birthday Dance Party!

Friday

I think the world needs a dance party this week!

Since this is my birthday week, I chose songs from the 1960s, the decade of my birth. (Yes, I am an old lady.) It’s an eclectic bunch of songs, but they all  make me want to dance. And now, it’s time to dance and have some FUN! Happy Friday!

Thank You, Jane

Today has been a rather melancholy and solemn day for me. When the anniversary of Jane Austen’s death comes up every year, I rarely mark it on AustenBlog or anywhere else (though I did this year). To me, it’s not something to be celebrated. If Austen had lived her full threescore and ten or more, had written a couple dozen books, had lived a life long and full and successful, I think I would feel differently.  But her early death makes me angry. It’s so unfair: to Jane herself, of course, who died just short of real success in her chosen career; to Cassandra and her family, who loved her so; and yes, for myself and her fans, who were cheated out of perhaps a dozen or more Jane Austen novels. Who knows what heights of artistry she might have attained? Or how many darn good stories she would have told?

I want to share something that I wrote for Jane Austen Cover to Cover as a personal note at the end of the book. I included the cover of my first copy of Emma, which was my introduction to Jane Austen’s work, and the story not only of that first Austen but how she has changed my life, because she did, literally, change my life. 

bantam_emmaSometimes the most insignificant things lead to the most unexpected and glorious places. Like Mr. Darcy’s love for Elizabeth Bennet, “I cannot fix on the hour” more precisely than sometime in the early 1990s, but I found myself in a mall drugstore, facing the mass market paperbacks rack, looking for something to read. Nothing appealed, until a paperback caught my eye with an image of a smiling lady in a white gown and a big green bonnet: Emma by Jane Austen. I had recently been reading and re-reading some Victorian novels, particularly those by the Brontë sisters, and I was drawn to this book by the pretty painting. Various people had been telling me for years that I should read Jane Austen, and the decision was made. The sticker on the cover for $2.00—the book was marked down for clearance—might have been persuasive, as well.

I took the book home and read it, and liked it. A little while later, I was in another bookstore and purchased a copy of Pride and Prejudice, which I also liked. A little while after that, I was in yet another bookstore and purchased a copy of Persuasion, and then I fell in love. I read Austen’s other three novels, and biographies of her life, and works of criticism. Not long after, the mid-1990s spate of Austen film adaptations fed my new obsession. I started writing about Austen on the Internet. I joined the Jane Austen Society of North America. I started a blog. I wrote some books. These things were all a direct consequence of my purchase of that two-dollar paperback. I can say with some confidence that it changed my life. Jane Austen is powerful, and she can do that; she has done it for others beside me. Thank you, Jane, for everything.

And now on to the 250th anniversary of Jane Austen’s birth, which will truly be a celebration. I promise I will be more cheerful on December 16, 2025.

Not So Grand

The Grand Sophy Sourcebooks 2016Sourcebooks is in the process of rebranding its editions of Georgette Heyer’s novels. I want to say up front that Sourcebooks performs a real public service in keeping Heyer in print here in the U.S. It wasn’t that long ago that, if we Yanks wished to read Heyer’s books and our public library was not well-stocked, we had to comb used-book stores and websites, sometimes paying outrageous prices due to their rarity–Heyer fans tend to hang on to their copies–or import them from the UK at considerable expense. I know that because I did it.

Sourcebooks recently posted on their “Georgette Heyer” Facebook page the first redesigned cover they are launching, for The Grand Sophy, which can be seen at left (you can see it at a larger size by clicking on it). While the illustration is fresh and appealing, it has about as much to do with The Grand Sophy as I do with nuclear geophysics.

One is tempted to respond, in the language of Austen and Heyer, that some great misapprehension has occurred. Is that supposed to be Sophy Stanton-Lacy? Whose clothes are all from Paris, who drives a high-perch phaeton and rides a spirited Mameluke-trained stallion, and who carries a pistol and knows how to use it (though it throws a little right)? This simpering miss with her ribbons and flounces and sweet cotton gown that she ran up from the Simplicity Basic Regency Gown pattern using quilting fabric from JoAnn? With a really weird handbag? And evening gloves with a day dress and bonnet? THAT’S supposed to be The Grand Sophy? Continue reading

It’s good to be a nerd sometimes

open_pkg_frontOne of those times was today. I went into the mailroom today to get my mail and someone had propped a package up on the mailbox where everyone leaves misdelivered stuff. It had my name on it, but someone had written on it, “Delivered to wrong apt.” The sender had not included the apartment number, so I guess it was randomly delivered to someone in the complex.
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Emma in America Exhibition and Website at Goucher College Library

emma_in_americaI was thrilled to take a drive down to Baltimore recently for the opening reception for Goucher College Library’s Emma in America exhibit, celebrating 200 years of Jane Austen’s novel (which actually was published in late 1815, though the title page says 1816) as well as the 200th anniversary of the first publication of one of Austen’s novels in the U.S., also Emma, by Mathew Carey of Philadelphia. 
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