Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Jane Austen, Online in Her Own Hand

A friend has alerted me to an exciting new development from the University of Oxford and King's College London.

To be brief, it's Jane Austen's original manuscripts, now digitized and available online! We can all gaze on her own script, her own words, and dig into her writing process. The goal of this Jane Austen Manuscripts site is to "create a digital resource reuniting all the known holograph surviving manuscripts of Austen’s fiction in an unprecedented virtual collection." And it's gorgeous.

The site describes the project this way:

Jane Austen’s fiction manuscripts are the first significant body of holograph evidence surviving for any British novelist. They represent every stage of her writing career and a variety of physical states: working drafts, fair copies, and handwritten publications for private circulation. The manuscripts were held in a single collection until 1845, when at her sister Cassandra’s death they were dispersed among family members, with a second major dispersal, to public institutions and private collections, in the 1920s.1 Digitization enables their virtual reunification and will provides scholars with the first opportunity to make simultaneous ocular comparison of their different physical and conceptual states; it will facilitate intimate and systematic study of Austen’s working practices across her career, a remarkably neglected area of scholarship within the huge, world-wide Austen critical industry.

Many of the Austen manuscripts are frail; open and sustained access has long been impossible for conservation and location reasons. Digitization at this stage in their lives not only offers the opportunity for the virtual reunification of a key manuscript resource, it will also be accompanied by a record in as complete a form as possible of the conservation history and current material state of these manuscripts to assist their future conservation.

So far, I've only looked at the front board of Volume the First. In her own hand! Excitement!

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