Jane Austen’s Fiction Manuscripts
"Jane Austen’s (1775-1817) fiction manuscripts are the first substantial collection of writings in the author’s own hand to survive for a British novelist. They represent every stage of her writing life, roughly 1787 to 1817; that is from childhood (aged 11 or 12) to the year of her death (aged 41). They display a wide variety of physical states: working drafts, fair copies, and crafted ‘publications’ for private circulation among family and friends [...]." "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 provides scholars with the first opportunity to make simultaneous ocular comparison of their different physical and conceptual states; it facilitates 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 is 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. The digital edition includes in the first instance all Jane Austen’s known fiction manuscripts and any ancillary materials held with them, as follows":
  • Volume the First - Bodleian Library, Oxford
  • Volume the Second - British Library, London
  • Volume the Third - British Library, London
  • Lady Susan - Pierpont Morgan Library, New York
  • The Watsons - Pierpont Morgan Library, New York
  • The Watsons - in private ownership; on deposit at Queen Mary, University of London
  • Notes - ‘Plan of a Novel’ + 2 holograph notes (Pierpont Morgan Library, New York)
  • Opinions - ‘Opinions of Mansfield Park’ and ‘Opinions of Emma’ (British Library, London)
  • Persuasion - British Library, London
  • Sanditon - King’s College, Cambridge Methodology used for the facsimile digital edition: " The digital imaging of the Austen manuscripts has been done to the highest possible standard with the most advanced equipment available. Images for Volume the First were provided by the Bodleian Library, and for Volume the Second, Volume the Third, Persuasion, and Opinions of Mansfield Park and Emma by the British Library. The equipment and photographers used to supply images for the manuscripts held at the Morgan Library & Museum, at King's College, Cambridge, and for the manuscript on deposit at Queen Mary, University of London were loaned ... from the Digital Image Archive of Medieval Music and were also used by the Israeli Antiquities Authority during 2008 for the digitization of some of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Scanning of the Austen materials was done in 24 bit colour. In the early stages of the project, a Phase One PowerPhase scanning back which captures images at 144 million pixels and yields images of up to 350 Mb was used. With this equipment, each manuscript image took up to two minutes to capture. More recently, Phase One have developed a single shot camera which captures up to 40 million pixels, yielding images of approximately 44 Mb...." Transcription and metadata "Full diplomatic transcriptions of all texts were produced and marked up using an XML schema developed at the Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King’s College London. Austen’s handwriting and punctuation are agreed to be of great importance in the understanding of her work but have hitherto been little studied. The mark up scheme has recorded orthographic variants and punctuation symbols in minute detail for subsequent computational interrogation." "Complex structural metadata for each work has been added using the METS standard within the TEI Header. Austen prepared many of her writing surfaces with special care, regularly assembling small booklets by cutting and folding large sheets of paper in a particular manner. Structural metadata allows for the online reconstruction and deconstruction of these material surfaces which instantiate in miniature, booklet by homemade booklet, Austen’s sense as she wrote of the emerging novel."
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    Saturday, 17 March 2012 - 10:28pm
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