Jane Austen- The annotated Pride and Prejudice, annotated and edited by David M. Shapard
While in Melbourne on holiday this week (with book club member, and life-time bestfriend/almost-sister/confidante, Pauline) we stumbled into a little discount book store (from memory I believe it was ‘fly by night books’ on Elizabeth Street). I soon found this book on the shelf marked at ‘$10’ before being told that everything in the store was reduced by 50 per cent! What a bargain! (AU)$5 for this fantastic book (that I have seen priced anywhere between $30-$50 on the web)? Hell yes. Both Pauline and I bought the two copies from the shelf, highly satisfied with this incredible bargain.
However, more exciting was the quality of what lay beneath the cover (the image on front being that of Fanny Austen Knight, Jane Austen’s niece, and painted by Cassandra Austen). Every page on the left is the story, and every page on the right contains annotations that describe what you have just been reading. It’s a nice process, and though I haven’t read particularly far in (I just settled down to read a bit last night) I have had a fairly solid flick through and have learnt a lot already.
Not only does it describe the standard things (the meanings of particular words such as Milliner and “Sallad” [sic]) but it also shows pictures of what Austen meant by certain things, such as a little diagram of a ‘low phaeton’ on page 291 as well as other carriages throughout, and images of idealistic sloped hills, a piano forte and other details (including quotes from Austen’s letters et cetera) that make the story come alive. The annotations also broach the topic of interpreting some of what is happening- discussing why Denny had a motive to deny all knowledge, and even downplay, Wickham and Lydia’s elopement and giving us information on a range of topics like this.
There is an important point made in the first section ‘Notes to the Reader’ which I think is a good one- “… the comments on the techniques and themes of the novel, more than other types of entries, represent the personal views and the interpretations of the editor. Such views have been carefully considered, but nevertheless they will inevitably provoke disagreement among some readers. I can only hope that even in those cases, the opinions expressed provide useful food for thought.” This is a really nice thing to have said, and certainly there are moments where I have interpreted the novel in a different way, but the details provided (over 2300 annotations!) have given me some interesting reflections.
The book also features a really heartfelt introduction, maps (one of the countys in England and several more detailed maps of Derbyshire et cetera) and, a very exciting addition, a chronology of events that also includes potential dates so you can track when everything was meant to have happened. I am particularly enjoying the “Explanation of historical context” where etiquette, norms and class divides are discussed. I believe that these details are not only fantastic for fans of the book who want to learn a bit more or gain a few different perspectives, but also for students and teachers who are learning/teaching Pride and Prejudice as it explores words and key issues fantastically and provides a great bibliography for further reading (it was also suggested to an English Advanced Year 11/12 student in Australia on Bored Of Studies).
The project of creating this version was apparently spurred on by the Republic Of Pemberley, a site run by a strongly dedicated volunteer committee that have some great discussion boards, information and generally amusing Austen-related content. It has also been used on Austenprose’s list of ‘Reading resources’ for the event ‘Pride and Prejudice without Zombies’.
Apparently the annotations tend to repeat themselves (justified in the introduction as a means to make it easier for readers to understand at any page) and this has been a source of irritation for some readers. One commenter on Amazon also noted that it seemed as though the details were meant for an American audience with little British knowledge. This review from JASNA member Linda Bree is quite interesting as it divides up the usefulness of the annotations into a digestable fashion showing where some are lacking. Personally, I found the first few chapters quite enriching, so it will be interesting to see whether I agree with these opinions later on (Update on its way!).
If you’re determined to get the book, and can’t make the trek to Melbourne, then there are a few places that you can find it for just under $20 if ordering on the internet. You can even download the ebook for about $15.
If you have a copy, what do you think of it?
For the record, other cheap places to buy books in the CBD of Melbourne include:
Dirt Cheap Books which is a bit of a DFO for books. Very low prices (majority around the (AU)$4.99 mark) but all shoved in carelessly. If you know of Basement books in Sydney, it has a similar feel. You have to dig out the real treasures, and it isn’t quite a romantic book-shopping experience but the prices looked good!
Flinders Books on Flinders Street is one of the top second hand bookstores. We only stepped in for a moment (and it does have that characteristic musky smell) but it looked pretty good, with a complete mixture of current titles with some nice classics. Unfortunately it isn’t a big store, but it’s worth the look.