Collecting Jane Austen: R. W. Chapman’s 1923 Oxford edition of the Novels

1923 large paper ed. with the 1932 Letters – 7 vols – with frontispiece to ‘Emma’: Ball Dress from Ackermann’s Repository, October 1816 [Louella Kerr Books]

I mentioned in the first post on collecting Jane Austen, that the Oxford edition of the novels edited by R. W. Chapman is essential, so now a little history.

Here is how David Gilson annotated this edition in his Bibliography under the year1923:

E150. The Novels of Jane Austen: the text based on collation of the early editions by R. W. Chapman. With notes, indexes and illustrations from contemporary sources. 5 volumes. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1923. 1000 sets …

And then goes on for 5 pages [p. 296-300].

Gilson notes an undated memorandum in the files of the Clarendon Press: “The publishers are bitterly opposed to any imaginative illustrations, and would cheerfully have no illustrations at all.  But they would be in favor of a few objective illustrations.”

“They” were perhaps responding to Henry James who had famously complained that the public’s enthusiasm for Jane Austen was being aided and abetted “by a body of publishers, editors and illustrators who find their dear, our dear, everybody’s dear, Jane, so infinitely to their material purpose, so amenable to pretty reproduction in every variety of what is called tasteful, … and what proves to be saleable form.”

Chapman did choose “objective” illustrations – from contemporary sources that Jane Austen would have been familiar with: the landscape, art, architecture, fashion, carriages, etc. of the time period. The lists of appendices (essays on the times, Austen’s language, chronologies and Index of Characters, etc.) and the illustrations found in all 5 volumes are repeated in each volume.

Here is the list of all the illustrations:

Only 1000 sets were printed, 950 for sale – the value of this 1st edition set is about $1,500 and is described as the “Large Paper Edition” by booksellers. The set pictured above included the 1934 2-volumes Letters and sold for $5,500 a few years ago [not to me unfortunately!]

Some of the contemporary illustrations that Chapman chose we are all now quite familiar with – here are just 3 examples:

From P: A Landaulet by Mr. Birch. Ackermann’s Repository, March 1818

****************

There are various re-printings of this Oxford set and buyer beware as to what you are getting – here’s a quick analysis:

The set was reissued in 1926 and though called a “Second edition,” it was really just a reprint on cheaper paper and less elaborate illustrations. A note to this edition and some additional notes by Chapman are included.

1926 – 2nd edition covers and title page [Charles Bossom , Abebooks]

In 1933, the 5 volumes were re-printed again as a “Third edition” but the text was printed from the same plates, so not officially a 3rd ed at all.

After various re-printings [see Gilson’s notes on these], the Oxford set was issued in 1965-66, now called the official 3rd edition – same text but with alterations to notes etc. by Mary Lascelles based on Chapman’s notes.  Chapman had issued the Minor Works volume in 1954, and the set has been the 6 volumes ever since.

1950s printing with volume 6, the Minor Works [1st published in 1954]
Oxford ed, 1988 printing – $175. [but you can find it for less]

Just to give you an idea of the confusing publishing history and the possible printings out there, here is the copyright notice in one of my sets, the 1988 printing you see above:

This Chapman set was the first to offer complete scholarly notes and textual analysis for an English author and has been the source for citation ever since. The Cambridge Edition of the Works of Jane Austen, with Janet Todd as General Editor and each of the novels edited by a different Austen scholar, began publishing in 2005 [it is now complete in 8 volumes with Juvenilia and Later Manuscripts included.] This has begun to supersede the Oxford set for citation purposes. You really need them both, as daunting as that might be! More on this Cambridge set in another post.

Frontis to ‘Lovers’ Vows’ in the Oxford ‘Mansfield Park’

What is your favorite set of the Novels??

©2021, Jane Austen in Vermont

7 thoughts on “Collecting Jane Austen: R. W. Chapman’s 1923 Oxford edition of the Novels

  1. I am finding this series of posts really interesting Deb. Good one. I have only Penguin Classic versions. I enjoy reading and get a lot from the academic introductions in those. How do they fit into the hierarchy of academic edtions? All the best, Tony

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    • Hello there Tony,

      I have many versions of the novels, most of the Penguins, but a full set of the Oxford World Classics paperbacks that I give myself permission to write in – several are falling apart! I love all the paperback editions because their introductions as you noted are fabulous entries into the works, and sometimes the only way to find a certain scholar’s essay – they are reprinted periodically with new scholar intros, so you are sort of obligated to get them all! Tony Tanner did intros to Penguin editions a number of years ago and published them all in a book in 1986 (Harvard UPress) – and just titled “Jane Austen.” I still think it the most insightful collection of essays ever written and highly recommend it – and this gives me an idea for yet another must-have-for-your-Austen-collection blog post! Thank you for the idea! Not everything in such a collection has to cost thousands of dollars!

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  2. I’m loving these entries, Deb and I would also like your permission to translate one in particular, the Collecting 101 entry, because you have given me an idea for a similar series for Spanish speaking readers.

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  3. Pingback: Collecting Jane Austen ~ ‘Sermons to Young Women’ by James Fordyce – Jane Austen in Vermont

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