Jane Austen’s Fiction Manuscripts Digitized

The following fabulous information just received from Janeite Hope!

 Last year there was quite a bit of discussion around the kerfuffle between author Claire Harman (Jane’s Fame) and Professor Kathryn Sutherland (Jane Austen’s Textual Lives) [see post:  Discord in Austen Land  from March 15, 2009]. The dust appears to have settled and now we can be indebted to Professor Sutherland for yet another wonderful contribution to all Janeites and the world of Jane Austen scholarship.


Under the direction of Professor Sutherland, and a joint project of the University of Oxford and Kings College London, the Centre for Computing in the Humanities of King’s College London has published the website: Jane Austen’s Fiction Manuscripts. The site includes transcriptions as well as high quality facsimiles. Of particular interest to scholars, though not yet apparent on the website, is the fact that the manuscripts have been encoded with “orthographic variants and punctuation symbols in minute detail for subsequent computational interrogation” as well as complex structural metadata. This means that interesting reconstruction, deconstruction and analysis will be possible.

Meanwhile we have the current Austen site to study and enjoy.

Jane Austen’s Fiction Manuscripts

According to the site:

“Jane Austen’s fiction manuscripts are the first significant body of holograph evidence surviving for any British novelist. They represent every stage of her writing career and a variety of physical states: working drafts, fair copies, and handwritten publications for private circulation. The manuscripts were held in a single collection until 1845, when at her sister Cassandra’s death they were dispersed among family members, with a second major dispersal, to public institutions and private collections, in the 1920s Digitization enables their virtual reunification and will provides scholars with the first opportunity to make simultaneous ocular comparison of their different physical and conceptual states; it will facilitate intimate and systematic study of Austen’s working practices across her career, a remarkably neglected area of scholarship within the huge, world-wide Austen critical industry.

Many of the Austen manuscripts are frail; open and sustained access has long been impossible for conservation and location reasons. Digitization at this stage in their lives not only offers the opportunity for the virtual reunification of a key manuscript resource, it will also be accompanied by a record in as complete a form as possible of the conservation history and current material state of these manuscripts to assist their future conservation.

The digital edition will include in the first instance all Jane Austen’s known fiction manuscripts and any ancillary materials held with them.”

Manuscripts now online are:

•          Volume the First, Bodleian Library, Oxford

•          Volume the Second, British Library, London

•          Volume the Third, British Library, London

•          Lady Susan, Morgan Library & Museum, New York

•          Susan, Morgan Library & Museum, New York

•          The Watsons, Morgan Library & Museum, New York

•          The Watsons, Queen Mary, University of London, London

•          Persuasion, British Library, London

•          Sanditon, King’s College Cambridge, Cambridge

•          Opinions of Mansfield Park Opinions of Emma, British Library, London

•          Plan of a Novel, according to hints from | various quarters, Morgan Library & Museum, New York

•          Profits of my Novels, Morgan Library & Museum, New York


[Posted by Hope G.]

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