Since the advent of mass-produced books in the late 1800’s, there have been hundreds, if not thousands, of different editions created of Jane Austen’s novels and minor works. While I will not publicly admit how many I own, *cough* I will share that there is more than one copy of her six major works in my bookcase. I have known a few Janeites who admit that they are hell-bent on collecting every old and new edition of Pride and Prejudice ever published. That is an obsession that will soon require a library as large as Pemberley’s expansive shelves.
After reading the description of Janine Barchas’ new book, The Lost Books of Jane Austen, I have a feeling that the author may be in that obsessed category of book collectors too. We are a rare breed and she has my total sympathy and approval.
Hardcore bibliography meets Antiques Roadshow in an illustrated exploration of the role that cheap reprints played in Jane Austen’s literary celebrity―and in changing the larger book world itself.
In the nineteenth century, inexpensive editions of Jane Austen’s novels targeted to Britain’s working classes were sold at railway stations, traded for soap wrappers, and awarded as school prizes. At just pennies a copy, these reprints were some of the earliest mass-market paperbacks, with Austen’s beloved stories squeezed into tight columns on thin, cheap paper. Few of these hard-lived bargain books survive, yet they made a substantial difference to Austen’s early readership. These were the books bought and read by ordinary people. Continue reading →
Jennie at The Bennet Sisters blog has started a meme that I could not resist. She asks which are your top ten favorite Pride and Prejudice covers? Lord knows there are hundreds of them out there. A search on Google images, Advanced Book Exchange, Good Reads and Barnes & Noble produced a plethora of selections. It was tough to narrow it down to just ten. I could do a whole blog on the good, the bad, and the atrociously ugly covers that I ran across, but here are my “most accomplished” selections. (P.S. It’s ok to judge a book by its cover when that is the main objective.)
#10 (left) Modern Library 1995: Chosen purely because Colin Firth is on the cover. La. This was one of the many variations of covers that sprung up after the A&E/BBC 1995 miniseries Pride and Prejudice. Oh that Mr. Darcy just does it to us every time.
#9 (right) Marvel Comics 2009: Pride and Prejudice went all graphicy and such on us last year when Marvel Comics produced five editions of P&P in comic format. This is issue number four. It was my favorite of the five: Lizzy walking in the verdure of the English countryside. (she is a bit pear shaped in her straight Regency frock though)
#8 (left) Heritage Classics 2009: I know! Doesn’t this look vintage 1950’s or what? It’s not. I believe it is a knock off of those dime paperbacks romance novels that your sister used to hide from the parental units. I do not like to think that is Darcy manhandling a blonde Lizzy, so I imagine it is Wickham and Georgiana and it works.
#7 (right) Harper Teen 2009: Cashing in on the Twilight craze, Harper Collins issued a whole series of classics with new covers of flowers on black backgrounds. It worked. Teens snapped them up at my store, but were a bit miffed when they got to chapter three and realize that there were no vampires or werewolves in it. ;-) The covers where quite beautiful though.
#6 (left) Oxford World Classic 2008: There have been many variants of Regency-era young ladies in white gracing covers of classic literature over the last ten years. I particularly like this one because of the lady’s expression and upward gaze. I imagine it is Elizabeth looking at Darcy after their reunion at Pemberley and she now knows how big his house is. (Just kidding – we all know it was really love that motivated her change of heart – right?)
#5 (right) Purnell Maidenhead 1976: This cover just makes me smile. It is vintage fare from the 1970’s and reminds me of the Georgette Heyer covers from the same era. The artist did actually capture the “one turned white and one turned red scene” when Elizabeth is introduced to Mr. Wickham in Meyerton and Darcy arrives on horseback. Lizzy does not quite have the correct expression she should at that moment though. Still fun.
#4 (left) White’s Books 2009: This striking graphic image designed by Kazuko Nomoto of Regency-era dancing slippers, Hessian boots, frocks and breeches is 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.
#3 (right) George Allen 1894: The classic peacock cover designed by illustrator Hugh Thomson still holds up as one of the most elegant and beautifully designed P&P covers of all time over a hundred years after it was first published. I just wish I could afford a copy for my own library. Since they are one of the most highly collectible of vintage Jane Austen editions (except first editions which are really, really to out of my league) they command close to a $1,000 from antiquarian book sellers. Cheers to anyone who bought their copy before 1995.
#2 (left) Pocket 1940: This vintage cover just has it all: splashy peacock in the foreground elegantly displaying his plumage and a scene of Pemberley perhaps with a couple in the background. I enjoy covers with symbolism, color and beautiful design. This one sings for me.
#1 (right) Macmillan and Co 1895: Another vintage treasure that I can not afford, but shall admire from afar is this regally elegant cover in red with gold embossing. The design really has nothing to do with P&P since it is more Renaissance than Regency, but it is opulent and accomplished and I think even Mr. Darcy would approve.
So gentle readers, which are your favorite Pride and Prejudice covers? Please leave a comments and I challenge all of you with blogs to post your list. Be sure to voice your opinion decidedly and vote which of my top ten you like the best.
I think that Jane Austen just might approve of this new cover design that fashion illustrator Rueben Toledo has created for her novel Pride and Prejudice. Her fondness for finery is confirmed in her letters to her sister Cassandra as she chats about her shopping expeditions to linen-drapers, silk-mercer’s and milliners in London and Bath, and about her progress in creating her own clothing.
“I have determined to trim my lilac sarsenet with black ribbon just as my China Crape is …Ribbon trimmings are all the fashion at Bath, & I dare say the fashions of the two places are alike enough in that point, to content me. – With this addition it will be a very useful gown, happy to go anywhere.” 5 March 1814
We have seen many traditional cover art designs for Pride and Prejudice over the years, but I must say that I think that Toledo’s new cover qualifies as the snazziest. The two most pressing questions are: 1.) Do you judge a book by its cover? and, 2.) Do you need yet another copy of P&P in your library? Penguin Books is hoping you do, and I wholly confess to answering yes to both questions. One can never have too many editions of P&P and this transformation of Lizzy, Darcy &C into “Couture Classics” is irresistible.
Toledo’s eye is quite striking. 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 stepping 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 an excellent introduction by Tony Tanner that Paris Hilton won’t read, but she might deem useful as a door stop.
Also included in the series is Toledo’s stunningly fierce cover of the wide eyed Catherine Earnshaw (though we know she is not as innocent as she looks) wandering the Yorkshire moors in Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights and very hip looking Hester Prynne from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel The Scarlet Letter in a little black dress no less. What fashionable 17th-century Puritan Boston woman would be without one, right?
Each of these lovely deluxe editions include Penguin Classics definitive texts, introductions by leading scholars, and helpful notes to alleviate any guilt you might be harboring for buying anything purely based on in its bling factor. Enjoy!