Tee-hee!! I am a lifelong Jane Austen fan. Did you know?
I mean...I love my Stephen King and my Neil Gaiman and my Robert Kirkman, too, but really, Jane Austen's been with me a long, long time.
I read Pride & Prejudice for the first time when I was in middle school, and I was captivated by the accounts of fancy dresses and fancier manners. It struck me as so different, so other from the life I was used to...I couldn't put it down.
High school found me, in my infrequent spare time, working my way through the rest of Austen's opus. Emma. Sense & Sensibility. Northanger Abbey. Persuasion. I read them all.
And while the initial draw was the fancy dresses and other-ness, what kept me coming back was the comedy. Austen was a sharp satirist. She was a critic of the sterile manners and crusty classism of Victorian England, and she used her wit to poke fun at the parties, the frivolity, the seeming insanity of her world.
The results are often hilarious, and that's kept me coming back to these books year after year after year.
Especially Pride & Prejudice. Hands down, that one's my favorite. I've had the same paperback copy since high school. It's starting to fall apart, but who cares.
So yeah. Jane Austen. I know!
When my friends at Quirk Books told me they were publishing a new retrospective on Jane Austen, called Jane Austen Cover to Cover, I was all over it. Of course I wanted to learn more about her, and about the images/bindings that have made up the covers to her awesome books through the years.
Why wouldn't I?
Especially with Quirk behind it - because, as you may or may not know, Quirk Books are the publishers of the great literary classic, Pride & Prejudice & Zombies! Clearly they love Austen as much as I do.
Written/compiled by Margaret C. Sullivan, this book is gorgeous and fun. Sullivan is obviously a fan herself, and she seems to have fun talking about not only the covers, but the history behind each publication.
Like...did you know Austen only ever sold the rights to Pride & Prejudice? All her other books were published in such a way as to allow her to keep her rights, and to receive commission. Sound familiar? Oh yes. It's how some small presses work these days, and it's a lot like self-publishing.
And did you know that on some of the earliest covers, Jane Austen's name wasn't even included? Nope. It was thrown out in favor of displaying the name of the more well-known illustrators.
I know, right?!
So, there's interesting history, and gorgeous pictures of old books. Really old books. I have no idea how she found all these images, but it's impressive. First editions of British and American printings, rare, illustrated editions...Sullivan's found them all.
It's an awesome book, assuming you're a Jane Austen fan. I mean, if you're not, it's still lovely, but it probably won't be your thing.
That said, it is definitely MY thing. If it's YOUR thing, too, I highly suggest you ask Santa to slip a copy under your tree this year. And maybe, if you're as nerdy as me, you'll find the page with a picture of your very own old, tattered paperback cover....and you'll of course have to snap a shot of it and post it on your blog. :)
Yep. I'm a dork. Deal with it. :)