Literary classics that are out of copyright can be a gold mine for publishers. With no living authors to negotiate contracts or pester them about marketing and promotions, they are at their leisure to do as they please, and do so, as is apparent in some choices of cover artwork! The competition in the marketplace for classics is stiff and really heats up when a renowned author such as Jane Austen enters the arena. Even her lesser known works such as Northanger Abbey and Mansfield Park get equal treatment. Hurrah. We are all for equality in the book force.
There are at present over 50 editions of Mansfield Park available in printed book format on Amazon.com. Everyone has their preferred edition, but here are my selections of the best and brightest currently in print. I would love to hear about your favoured edition, so please share by leaving a comment between August 16 and the 30 to qualify for some of our free give-aways during Mansfield Park Madness.
The Oxford Illustrated Jane Austen: Volume III: Mansfield Park
Oxford University Press, USA (1988). First published in 1923, this third edition of Oxford’s classic volume is still the definitive text and supplemental material recommended by JASNA and many veteran readers of Jane Austen novels. Editor Dr. R.W. Chapman’s emendations and revisions of the text based on a “full collation between all the published editions in the author’s lifetime” is currently under debate by scholars, but the nuances will fly past the pleasure reader. This volume contains an impressive presentation of support material including: Introductory Note, the complete play Lovers’ Vows which the characters in novel attempt to produce, Appendixes on the Chronology of Mansfield Park, Improvements, and Carriages and Travel, and Indexes to the Characters &C. The size is quite workable in spite of its extras. Probably the most used supplemental material on Mansfield Park in my personal library. Hardcover, 584 pages, ISBN 978-0192547033. 4 out of 5 Regency stars
Mansfield Park: Penguin Classics
Penguin Classics (2003). Revised edition. The interesting slant on this edition is that the editor Kathryn Sutherland used the text of the first edition of Mansfield Park (1814), which literally reverses the emendations by Chapman in the Oxford editions, and has not attempted to make any changes; not even spelling corrections or the ones that Jane Austen made herself for the second edition! She kindly refers the reader to the extensive ‘Emendations to the Text’ section and lists the changes from the first edition of 1814 to the second edition of 1816. Pleasure readers might be puzzled by all this posturing by Austen scholars, (which is a bit deep into subtle nuances), but the rest of the supplemental material is quite extensive and helpful including; Introduction, Chronology, Further Reading, Note on Text; Appendixes: Re-instated introduction by Tony Tanner, Emendations to the Text, Textural Variants between the First and Second editions and Notes broken down by chapters. This a tight and clean editionwith its chapter notes and the re-instated introduction by Tony Tanner make it well worth the price. Trade paperback, 480 pages. $8.00, ISBN 978-0141439808. 3½ out of 5 Regency stars
Mansfield Park: Barnes & Noble Classics
Barnes & Noble (2004). Revised edition. The best thing going for this edition is its typesetting size and price. I could not find any mention of what edition or level of emendations where used on the text, so the editors are not shooting for the scholarly types; just plan old folks who don’t give two figs about what the textural battles are about. This is a slight oversight, since they had plenty of available space on the front pages to just mention what text they used and why. Oh well. Mansfield Park is Jane Austen, largest novel in size motivating publishers to try to cut down on price by using smaller print which can be quite vexing even to young readers, so this edition’s larger typeface is a pleasant surprise. The supplemental material is medium depth and includes; From the Pages of Mansfield Park which include some choice quotes, Biography of Jane Austen, The World of Jane Austen and Mansfield Park which is basically a chronology, Introduction by Amanda Claybaugh, brief Endnotes, Inspired by Mansfield Park which includes short blurbs on the movies Metropolitan and Mansfield Park (1999), Comments and Questions, and Further Reading. I will say that most of the comparably priced MP’s do not include any supplemental material, so B&N’s clout and deep pockets give readers a slight bonus. Hardcover, 427 pages, $7.95, ISBN 978-1593083564; softcover, 427 pages, $5.95, ISBN: 978-1593081546. 2½ out of 5 Regency stars
Mansfield Park: Oxford World’s Classics
Oxford University Press (2008). Revised edition. Oxford Press continues to impress me with their commitment to publish classics and revise them regularly. This new edition is much the same as its predecessor the 2003 edition, (which was truly a revision with new supplemental material), however, Oxford did spiff up the cover modernizing the design! This volume still shines in my estimation of what a great medium sized edition should be presenting an array of supplemental material that is easy to access, informative and inspiring including; Biography of Jane Austen, Introduction by Jane Stabler, Notes on the Text, Chronology; Four Appendixes: Lovers’ Vows (the play that the characters attempt to produce), Rank and Social Status, Dancing, Austen and the Navy; Textural Notes and Explanatory Notes. When it comes down to the wire, this edition is the best buy for the price at $7.95. Trade paperback, 418 pages, ISBN 978-0199535538. 3½ out of 5 Regency stars
Mansfield Park: Broadview Literary Texts Series
Broadview Press (2001). This hefty volume may just be the most in depth presentation of supplemental material available with an affordable price tag. The eight appendixes pull together a variety of interesting and comprehensive essays to help the reader place the novel in historical and social context, the author’s world and perspective at the time of its writing, and beyond. Some of the topics covered in the appendixes are (and space permits me from listing them all, so if you really need to know, go here) The Theatricals in Mansfield Park, Religion, Ideals of Femininity, The Improvement of the Estate, The West Indian Connection, Women’s Education, Contemporary Reception of Mansfield Park and Jane Austen’s Letters and Mansfield Park. This edition also includes a full introduction by noted scholar June Sturrock of Simon Fraser University, Notes on the text, a Chronology, and the full novel text! I can imagine that this would be very useful to advanced high school students, college level, and true Janeites who really want to dig deep into understanding the novel, its impact on literature, and the social context that inspired it. Trade paperback, 528 pages, $14.95, ISBN 978-1551110981. 5 out of 5 Regency stars
Mansfield Park: Norton Critical Edition
W.W. Norton & Co, Inc. (1998). Another authoritative presentation of in-depth supplemental material for scholars and serious students to digest, covering an incredibly impressive array of topics mentioned in, inspired by, or about the novel, all edited and introduced by Princeton University Professor, and Austen scholar Claudia L. Johnson. The major categories of the supplemental material include; a full Introduction, Map of England, Notes on the Text; Contexts including twelve essays ranging from poet William Cowper to landscape designer Humphry Repton; and Criticisms by Jan Fergus, Lionel Trilling, Alistair Duckworth, Nina Auerback, Joesph Litvack, Edward Said, Brian Southam, and Joseph Lew. I doubt that anyone could sit down and read this from cover to cover in one sitting, however, there is so much depth of subject and detail, that one could truly spend an entire lifetime using this edition as a resource. An incredible STEAL for the price. Trade paperback, 544 pages, $11.00, ISBN 978-0393967913. 5 out of 5 Regency stars
Mansfield Park: The Cambridge Edition of the Works of Jane Austen
Cambridge University Press (2005). This mysterious edition (to me) may just be the Flying Dutchman and the Holy Grail of Jane Austen editions, for I have yet to see one in hand, nor does my local library carry it, or are any other libraries willing to let it out of there sights by inter-library loan! Conclusively, it must be a treasure, and since it costs a bloody fortune, it most certainly is locked away in a University library special reading room where only scholars with white gloves can handle it!! I wish I could enlighten you all on what it contains, but alas, after an exhaustive attempt to obtain a copy short of paying the hefty price tag, I came up empty. Oh well. There always needs to be an unattainable Austen book out there to keep us Janeites dreaming. Hardcover, 826 pages, $130.00, ISBN: 978-0521827652. ? out of 5 Regency stars