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

“All I want for Christmas is … ” [anything Austen please!]

So here are a few random thoughts for holiday gift giving ~ either for yourself [forward this blog post as a subtle hint to your family and friends] or for your favorite Austen fan:

1.   Jane Austen’s Regency World magazine ~  

Every issue is a lovely gift in my mailbox!  One can get all sorts of Regency / Austen data on the internet nowadays – but there is still nothing like a journal such as this, filled with glorious pictures, well-written articles, book reviews, etc. that you can HOLD and keep and shelve along-side all your other Austen titles…


A quick summary of the latest issue [Nov/Dec 2009, Issue 42] which sports Jonny Lee Miller and Romola Garai on the cover ~ stars of the new BBC Emma that we in the States are anxiously awaiting to be broadcast in January [sigh!].  Inside, there are many pictures of the show to keep us satiated until then, and a fine story by editor Tim Bullamore on various behind the scenes goings-on.

And lots of other goodies: 

  • A guest essay by Sue Wilkes on “why we must not forget the real Regency” with our focus on the “glittering lifestyles of the elites of Bath and London” we too often lose sight of the majority lower classes and the very real issues of hunger and poverty  [Ms. Wilkes is the author of Regency Cheshire, another item for your gift-giving -.]
  • Sheryl Craig, on “An Austen Christmas” – a picture-packed [all from The Lewis Walpole Library of Yale University] article on the festivities in Austen’s pre-Victorian England, complete with allusions to the holiday as mentioned in the novels and her letters
  • Maggie Lane, also a regular contributor, never disappoints and here is another thought-provoking article on widows in Austen, “Not the Only Widow in Bath.”  Lane points out that the new book Jane Austen and Marriage by Hazel Jones [excellent book, and yet another gift idea!] has chapters on all aspects of female existence in the Regency period – all that is except widowhood – think Mrs. Norris, Lady Catherine, Mrs. Smith, Mrs. Clay, Lady Russell, Mrs. Bates, Mrs. Jennings, and others – all widows with a unique status in their world.  Fabulous article…
  • A special in this holiday issue ~ author Carrie Bebris with “A Midwinter Night’s Dream, a Mr. and Mrs. Darcy Mystery” – “On the stillest eve of January, Pemberley was alive with merriment.  So, too, was its master…” – and so it begins – I can tell no more…(!)
  • This month, the column “My Jane Austen” is by Eileen O’Higgins, the actress who plays Miss Martin [Robert Martin’s sister] in the new Emma – this is always fun to read – how someone started on the road to reading and loving Austen – we each of us has a great tale to tell!
  • The JASNA contribution by Elaine Bander [President of JASNA Canada] is about the tour “Houses of Jane Austen” she was fortunate to take when in England this year for the Chawton Conference.   And Marilyn Joice of the JAS highlights the events of their annual conference in “Dancing in Kent”
  • Photographs and round-up of September’s annual Jane Austen Festival in Bath
  • The always insightful “Book Reviews” by Joceline Bury
  • And the usual pack of news on “all things Austen”, letters to the editor, “what made the news in 1801,” – even the ads are lovely!

Upcoming issue:  Sex in the City; Bursting the Bubble; Figures of good in a difficult world; Meet Jane’s publisher, etc. – intrigued?

See the Jane Austen’s Regency World website, where you can subscribe [UK 33.  / everywhere else 38.70, though there are discounts for JASNA members]

2.  Oxford University Press has again put its 6-volume Oxford Illustrated Jane Austen on sale for $61.25. [regularly $175.] This is the 3rd edition based on collation of early editions by R.W. Chapman – all six hardcover volumes have dust jackets and feature early 19th-century illustrations and Chapman’s detailed explanatory notes.  This set is still the definitive edition used for citation – [though likely to change at some point to the new Cambridge texts] – but this is a must-have for everyone’s Austen shelf.

Oxford University Press website and the site for the Holiday Sale / Austen – if you “add to cart”  it will register at $61.25.


 3.  Lady Susan


There has of late been more interest in this early “novel” of Austen’s [helped perhaps by Laurel Ann at Austenprose and her efforts to get the entire Austen world reading / re-reading Lady Susan this past year! – if you haven’t followed this on her blog, you can do so at your leisure …]  – why it has not made it into BBC’s bonnet brigade I don’t know – just playing Lady Susan would I think be every actress’s dream role!  But as for a gift – a lovely and interesting “copy” of Austen’s seventh “novel” has appeared on the scene – a tad pricey at $139.99 [see the website for discount code], but you can certainly put it out there and beg for everyone you know to chip in together! ~ and a “novel” idea to create a box of actual letters for those works written in the epistolary format.  See the website of  London Publishing House for details.

4.  The illusive BBC Sense & Sensibility from 1971 starring Sheila Ballantine, Joanna David, Robin Ellis, Clive Francis, Michael Aldridge and Patricia Routledge is now available at Collectables Direct [there are other Austen items here – mostly videos, but also a bookend, necklace and music]

5.  Jane Austen, the Complete Novels from Naxos Audiobooks [also includes The Watsons and Sanditon ]– 69 cds and more than 80 hours of listening enjoyment – certainly enough for a long cold winter:  [$270. / set; or $170. for the download – yikes!]

  • Sense and Sensibility (11 CDs), read by Juliet Stevenson
  • Pride and Prejudice (11 CDs), read by Emilia Fox
  • Mansfield Park (14 CDs), read by Juliet Stevenson
  • Emma (13 CDs), read by Juliet Stevenson
  • Northanger Abbey (7 CDs), read by Juliet Stevenson
  • Persuasion (7 CDs), read by Juliet Stevenson
  • Lady Susan (2 CDs), read by Harriet Walter, Kim Hicks, Carole Boyd and cast [how perfect does this sound?!]
  • The Watsons and Sanditon (4 CDs), read by Anna Bentinck

It comes in a handsome, durable 69-CD box-set (accompanied by a full set of notes)

-Go to the NAXOS Audiobooks website; and scroll down for a link to an 8 minute podcast of actress/reader Juliet Stevenson on Jane Austen

[as an aside:  Naxos has announced the April release of Richard Armitage reading Georgette Heyer’s Venetia.  You can pre-order this now.  It is, sadly, like his reading of Sylvester, abridged, which usually makes me just cringe; but as one blogger so eloquently put, who, with Mr.Armitage reading, is really listening to the words anyway? – I loved hearing him read Sylvester – I just had to go out and buy the book to fill in the blanks…]

[available for pre-order on Amazon – or show a little patience, give a gift certificate and download it from NAXOS when it becomes available in April]

6.  Merchandise from JASNA Regional Chapters:  see the JASNA website for a listing of available Austen-themed gifts, from 2010 calendars with Brock prints, to puzzles, chocolate, and prints! And support a JASNA region at the same time!

2010 Calendar - Wisconsin Region


7.  a Jane Austen Jigsaw Puzzle at Bas Bleu for $14.95 and quite the challenge with 500 pieces!


Ok, done shopping for one evening – my budget is sorely depleted and this is just a start on all the possibilities to fill your gift-lists ~ more to come!

[Posted by Deb]

The Oxford Illustrated Jane Austen set on sale…

oxford-6volsetOxford University Press has the 6-volume set of the Oxford Illustrated Jane Austen [3rd edition, edited by R.W. Chapman] on sale from $175. to $43.75.  Click here for ordering information…