Which edition of Pride and Prejudice should you read?

“How pleasant it is to spend an evening in this way! I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading! How much sooner one tires of anything than of a book! When I have a house of my own, I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library.” Caroline Bingley, Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 11

There are hundreds of Pride and Prejudice editions currently in print. Which ones do I like, and why? Here is a list of my ten favorite award winners (if I was giving out awards).

Best “prettyish kind of wilderness” cover

Pride and Prejudice (White’s Fine Edition), cover design by Kazuko Nomoto. Let’s start with the vanity editions because we all know that “vanity is a weakness indeed. But pride — where there is a real superiority of mind, pride will be always under good regulation.” Thank you very much Mr. Darcy for giving me permission to buy yet another edition of Pride and Prejudice for my library solely based on pride in my library. This lovely new edition of P&P has a striking cover design by Kazuko Nomoto of Regency-era slippers, Hessian boots, frocks and breeches that wraps around to the back; Decorative end papers; Colored page tops; Marker ribbon; Elegant type face; An authorative text (without attribution) and Thick, acid-free paper. Elegant and stylish, the couples are facing each other and I assume dancing, but since we do not see above their waists, they could be kissing! Naaagh. It is truly an edition to “exhibit” on your coffee or bedside table and not one to just read; its hefty 1 pound 9 ouches alone being the main deterrent. White’s Books (2009), hardcover, unabridged text (376) pages, ISBN: 978-0955881862

Best not your “common garden variety” cover

Pride and Prejudice (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition), cover design by Reuben Toledo. Even though the silhouettes might look like stick insect runway models strutting to the black and white ball at Netherfield, I recognize them as our favorite literary duo appropriately walking away from each other after Darcy steps on her dress! I just imagine that Darcy has just given Lizzy the “be not alarmed Madame letter” and it all works for me. Get hip Janeites. We can now all be Austen fashionistas and exhibit our superior designer taste on our bedside tables. Now, (pray forgive) if our husbands, boyfriends, significant others or friends were ever in doubt of our obsession, this will certainly seal the deal. In defense, you can remind them that this new edition with the haute couture cover contains Penguin Classics definitive text and a brief biography of Jane Austen that Paris Hilton won’t read, but she might deem useful as a door stop. Read my full review of this edition here. Penguin Group (2009), trade paperback, unabridged text (339) pages, ISBN: 978-0143105428

Best “classic commentary” by dead authors

Pride and Prejudice (The Modern Library Classics Edition), introduction by Anna Quindlen. Supplemental material: Commentary by noted authors; Notes on the text; Brief biography of the author and a reading group guide. This compact and lightweight edition’s highlights (besides the obvious text) are the essays by authors Margaret Oliphant, George Saintsbury, Mark Twain, A. C. Bradley, Walter A. Raleigh and Virginia Woolf. Great for a student or veteran who needs to stash an extra copy in their car boot or desk drawer at work just in case you get in a debate and need a quick reference to quote passages illustrating why Mr. Darcy is proud and not shy. Random House (2000), trade paperback, unabridged text (304) pages, ISBN: 978-0679783268

Best “copycat” edition

Pride and Prejudice (Dover Classics Edition), preface by George Saintsbury, illustrated by Hugh Thomson. This beautiful replica of the ‘peacock edition’ of Pride and Prejudice is the next best thing to the ‘real thing’ since original copies of this highly collectible 1894 edition now command a handsome sum. Hugh Thomson’s illustrations tempered for the Victorian-era book market are a bit saccharine for me, but still beautiful. The preface by leading historian and literary critic of the day George Saintsbury is amusing. Even in 1894 Jane Austen had her fanboys. “In the novels of the last hundred years there are vast numbers of young ladies with whom it might be a pleasure to fall in love, – but to live with and marry, I do not know that any of them can come into competition with Elizabeth Bennet.” Dover Publication (2005), unabridged hardcover, text (476) pages, ISBN: 978-0486440910

Best “Twilighted” marketing ploy

Pride and Prejudice (Harper Teen Edition), no introduction. Supplemental material: No forward, no notes or appendixes in sight, but cool (for teens) selection of P&P Extras: The Jane Austen – Twilight Zone, by Shirley Kinney and Wallace Kinney; Which Pride and Prejudice Girl are You? Quiz; 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Jane Austen; What if Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy Lived Now and Were on Facebook?; and a short biography of the author thrown in for good measure. I will side with Mr. Collins in his evaluation of young ladies book taste in that “I have often observed how little young ladies are interested by books of a serious stamp, though written solely for their benefit. It amazes me, I confess; for, certainly, there can be nothing so advantageous to them as instruction.” The lack of supplemental information that might have “explained” the hard bits to young or neophyte readers would in this case, have been an advantage. Otherwise, the cover is a nice rip-off of the Twilight black background and inanimate objects representing the Twilight characters and wholly unconnected to Miss Austen’s. Harper Teen, trade paperback, unabridged text (472) pages, ISBN: 978-0061964367

Best “anecdotes and asides” for young readers with a Christian slant

Pride and Prejudice (Insight Edition), foreword by Nancy Moser. Supplemental material: Questions for conversation and a short biography of the author. The editors attempt to disarm reproof right out of the gate by stating that no “Regency historian, Austen scholar or doctoral literary critic” was harmed in the making of this edition. Well not quite. But that is my pithy (or not) take. The tidbits and factoids listed in the margins are from Austen fans and admirers from the Bethany House staff (one presumes since no individuals are credited) and they “highlight, inform and entertain” by tagging passages or words with symbols for: Historical and cultural details and definitions from England in the early 1800’s; Facts and tidbits from Austen’s life that parallel or illuminate the novel; References to Pride and Prejudice in today’s culture, particularly in films; Tips for love and romance; Themes of faith drawn from Austen’s life and Pride and Prejudice; Comments and asides on the book’s characters and plot and parts of the novel that just make us smile. They are very user friendly and not scholarly pedantic or religiously didactic. So sorry Mary Bennet and Mr. Collins, but you must look elsewhere for the advantages of instruction along the Fordyce’s Sermon’s vein. Great for a new readers, or fans that just want to squee along. Bethany House Publishers, trade paperback, unabridged text (360) pages, ISBN: 978-0764203886

Best “midlin” supplemental material

Pride and Prejudice (Oxford World’s Classic), introduction by Fiona Stafford. The supplemental material includes: Notes on text; Select bibliography; Chronology of Jane Austen; Explanatory notes on text; Appendix A Rank and social status; Appendix B Dancing and Textural notes. One of my favorite compact working editions of P&P, the supplemental material is excellent (except for the eh introduction) and the definitive text and notes are very “instructive”. Great for students who want a bit more explanation with notes that are presented in the back of the book highlighting historical, cultural and personal references to Austen and her family throughout the text. Pleasure readers will appreciate the compact size and beautiful design. Read my full review of this edition here. Oxford University Press (2008), trade paperback, unabridged text (333) pages, ISBN: 978-0199535569

Best “kick ass” introduction

Pride and Prejudice (Penguin Classics Edition), introduction by Vivien Jones. Supplemental material includes: Brief author biography; Reinstated original Tony Tanner introduction; Chronology of Jane Austen; Further reading and General notes on the text. It is not often that when a new edition of a classic novel is re-issued that it also includes an introduction from a previous edition from thirty years ago. Tony Tanner’s 1972 introduction is considered one of the best ever written and so popular that it was also included as an appendix in this edition. This volume is very similar in size of supplemental material to the OUP edition mentioned above. In quality and purpose, they are neck and neck, with OUP having slightly more info and this edition the better introduction. Either one is an excellent choice for students and pleasure readers. Penguin Books (2005), trade paperback, unabridged text (435) pages, ISBN: 978-0141439518

Best “friendly” edition

The Annotated Pride and Prejudice (Anchor Books), introduction and annotation by David M. Shapard. Supplemental material includes: Note on the text of the novel; Chronology of the novel; Bibliography and Maps. The most extensively noted edition that I have read, it is packed full of every cultural, historical and aside on Jane Austen and her family’s that one could wish for. The book is easily navigated with the text on the left hand page and the annotation on the right. This makes for a hefty volume of 739 pages of pure text and facts culled from innumerable resources. I like having so much information at hand in one volume. First time readers, student and veterans love this edition. So do I. Random House (2007), trade paperback, unabridged text (739) pages, ISBN: 978-0307278104

Best “powerhouse” edition

Pride and Prejudice (Longman Cultural Edition), edited and introduced by Claudia L. Johnson and Susan J. Wolfson. In addition to a biography, chronology, maps and a bibliography, this densely supplemented edition with a full text has numerous essays and selected excerpts of Austen’s contemporaries. This is definitely a labor of love by two eminent Princeton professors who present Jane Austen’s famous novel in several provocative and illuminating contexts – cultural, critical and literary. Suitable for AP high school & college students and serious Austen enthusiasts.  It is an impressive Austen achievement and a solid chunk of Pride and Prejudiceism, but the average pleasure reader could read this till the cows come home and not understand it all. Pearson Education (2003) trade paperback, unabridged text (459) pages, ISBN: 978-0321105073

Happy reading,

Laurel Ann

20 thoughts on “Which edition of Pride and Prejudice should you read?

  1. Great list – looks like I have some reading to do! I confess I don’t actually own ANY editions of Pride & Prejudice (or, for that matter, any of her books). I often go to the bookstore, stand in front of the Jane Austen section and stare at all the editions, wondering which one to buy. I’m always torn between the ones with beautiful covers and the ones with intriguing commentary. Perhaps I should read some of these and just…choose a couple! ;)

    Like

  2. For the Greater Boston Jane Austen Bookclub meetup’s reading of P&P, I borrowed from the library the Best “friendly” edition The Annotated Pride and Prejudice (Anchor Books), introduction and annotation by David M. Shapard. I greatly enjoyed it once I got used to reading the annotations. I especially liked some of the comments when characters “lie”.

    Like

  3. Nice list,Laurel-I also have the Modern Library edition as well as the Penguin Classics(the non deluxe one)and the Annotated,which is extremely extensive!

    In addition to those,my P&Ps included a ML hardcover tie-in to the BCC series(the one that Tom Hanks tries to read in You’ve Got Mail), a Paperback BOMC with the Hugh Thomson illustrations and a small red with gold trim hardbound from 1927 with illustrations by Charles Brock.

    That last one I bought during my one and only trip to England(so far,anyway) in a little bookshop at Lyme Regis. Funny,but I didn’t come across a copy of Persuasion there(did find the screenplay from the 1995 film version,however!). Sorry for going off the P&P track there-my bad:)

    Like

  4. I’ve studied Regency and Victorian fiction, both academically and just for fun. And so I thought I knew enough of the historical background and daily facts (social standings, money equivalents, food, etc.) to give me a full appreciation of Austen’s books. And, I’ve read Pride and Prejudice a number of times using a number of editions. Reading now with the Anchor annotated edition has made a tremendous difference and enhanced my pleasure immeasurably. I sometimes disagree with the opinion and analysis, but that just makes it more fun, almost like having a teacher and a book club all in one.

    Like

  5. I’m enjoying the B&N Classics fancy looking hardcover – not fancy in price thank you. I’ll be finishing this week! That ‘Twighlighted’ cover is really awful.

    :0)Mary Kathryn

    Like

  6. Nice list! I LOVE the Annotated Pride & Prejudice!!! My dad laughed at me when I bought it, but I really and truly love it. Massive amounts of information tucked in neatly, and it’s just pretty. :)

    Like

  7. I loved the list. I love my annotated version best. Then I don’t know which of the others I own would compare with your list at the moment. But I have two others. I love the cover detail espescially that you gave.

    Like

  8. What a great list! I am sooo glad that I’m not the only one who has more than one copy of P&P. Everytime I go to the bookstore I take a few minutes and look for any new cover that strikes my fancy.

    Like

  9. Where’s the Norton Critical Edition? As an English major, Norton Critical Editions are just about the best you can get if you’re looking for a “powerhouse” edition. I have several different copies of P&P and the Norton is the one I access when I want to delve deeper.

    Like

  10. Retro Penguin Books is delightful to hold & read – iTune have many audio readers for Pride & Prejudice – Lindsay Duncan (Lost in Austen/Under the Tuscan Sun/A Year in Provence) reads with not many changes of voice yet her timing is impeccable and thus you can “hear” the character.

    Like

  11. Lovely list, Laurel Ann! – one can never have too many editions of P&P! [I cease to count…] – all the various introductions by scholars [love best Tony Tanner’s analyses and that Penguin thoughtfully reprinted his P&P essay in their newest edition] – I do not have the White’s, so you have convinced me to add yet another – alas! no shelf space, so will also take your suggestion to put it on a table…

    [and I agree with Mary Kathryn – the ‘”twighlighted” cover is awful…]
    Deb

    Like

  12. I personally love the Annotated version of Pride and Prejudice. I love how the entire novel is on the left hand of the page and the annotations are on the right hand side of the novel – that way you are not constantly flipping to the back. I also love knowing more about the context and little things about the Victorian Age.

    Like

  13. I knew Pride and Prejudice was good but I wasn’t sure if it would be worth my cash (hell I was wrong) so I just bought the cheap Penguin classics version.

    No commentary or notes whatsoever. Just the pure old English language I barely understood. But it was in that way that I understood bit by bit the story through rereading it for a couple of times. You can say, self taught.

    That’s a very good list LA. I think I saw the Penguin Classics and Penguin Classics Deluxe edition at the bookstore. I might give in and buy!

    Like

  14. “But now really, do not you think Udolpho the nicest book in the world?”

    “The nicest—by which I suppose you mean the neatest. That must depend upon the binding.” (Northanger Abbey, Ch. 14)

    Pride and Prejudice is great no matter what the binding :)

    I really like my copy of Pride and Prejudice—the replica of the ‘peacock edition’, illustrated by Hugh Thomson—it is beautiful. The illustrations are hilarious! Hugh Thomson definitely had a sense of humor.

    Like

  15. The first two for the cover art, the last two for the extra content… must balance vanity with the improvement of my mind by extensive reading! ;-)

    Like

  16. I currently have the Barnes & Noble edition, though I recently picked up the Penguin Classics edtion as well. The print is good in both, though I wonder out loud what would be the best “large print” edition out there (I assume that there is at least one available).

    Like

  17. I must add that I bought the Jane Austen app for my iPhone. This way when I’m caught waiting in line or have to endure a ball game at a friend’s house, I can just pull out my iPhone and read an Austen novel.

    Thanks for the list. I do plan to collect the real books, too!

    Like

  18. Pingback: Which Pride and Prejudice edition should you read? «

  19. I have to admit, I really do like the cover of the penguin deluxe edition. However my favorite edition is the new penguin classics one with the yellow cover. While the yellow does tend to look a little garish, the fabric lining the novel is reminiscent of an older time. In my opinion, that edition is the best to read on a rainy/snowy day, by your fireplace, with a hot cup of tea.

    Like

  20. Pingback: Books Should Stay Books - The Covers of the Covers

Comments are closed.