Monday, June 14, 2010

Jane Austen Crosses Out!

Monday, June 14, 2010
Susan reporting:

Yes, Loretta and I are both writers, but we don't like to write about writing. While we're here, we'd rather be Nerdy and Historically Inclined, and besides, the actual act of writing a book is not terribly thrilling for bystanders.

Except, of course, when the book-writing is being done by Jane Austen (1775-1817).

I've already mentioned here (and here) how more and more rare books and manuscripts are being made available on line. Not only does this wonderful trend free these works from the confines of rare book rooms for a much wider audience, but it also helps safely preserve the originals for posterity.

Certainly this is the case with Jane Austen's Fiction Manuscripts, a three-year funded project of the University of Oxford and King's College London. Here is the formal explanation of the project, in polysyllabic scholar-ese, but the gist is wonderfully simple: to create a digital resource that offers all of Jane's handwritten manuscripts on line, page by page, with transcriptions beside them.

I can't begin to explain how much I love this. As a reader, it's fascinating to see how a familiar story evolves, how sentences and characters were changed by the author. But as a writer,  it's empowering as well, this astonishing chance to peek over Jane's own shoulder as she sits at her desk. Consider this page, the beginning of Chapter Ten of Persuasion, my favorite JA book. Cross-outs and insertions, scribbles and abbreviations and over-writing: all proof that those wonderfully perfect words didn't spring fully-formed and complete, but were wrestled with considerable thought and effort into final submission.

And yes, Jane, seeing that effort only makes me admire you more....:)

Many thanks to Michael Robinson for suggesting this link.


Solanah said...

Wow. Seeing that page is, I suppose in a word, stunning. Thank you so much for sharing!


LaDonna said...

How awesome! It is like watching her write.

Alexa Adams said...

Thank you so much for bringing this project to my attention. What an amazing resource!

GentlewomanThief said...

Oh, how exciting. I can't wait until it's all up - I suspect a great deal of time will be spent there pouring over the ink! Funnily enough I posted about her writing box the other day - I am very much in awe of those writers of the past who had to write entire novels, from original draft to finished manuscript, out entirely by hand. Amazing.

Unknown said...

Glad it appealed; thanks for the 'shout-out'

Vanessa Kelly said...

How wonderful! And how wonderfully reassuring to writers!

ILoveVersailles said...

Truly inspiring! There's always something new to learn about Jane, isn't there?

Isabella Bradford/Susan Holloway Scott said...

Glad everyone enjoyed this link - it really is special. And yes, it's incredibly encouraging to the rest of us mere mortal writers who are spared crossing-out only because we now have delete keys. :)

Cara Elliott said...

This so SO wonderul. Thanks for the heads-up, Susan. You and Loretta are so awesome about finding wonderfully interesting things!

Marcy said...

It is nice that so many historical documents are being put on line but in the end what will truly last through history will be the actual documents if they are taken care of. I do pray that actual books will continue to be published along with their digital counterparts.

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