The Lost Books of Jane Austen

The Lost Books of Jane Austen

by Janine Barchas


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In the nineteenth century, inexpensive editions of Jane Austen's novels targeted to Britain's working classes were sold at railway stations, traded for soap wrappers, and awarded as school prizes. At just pennies a copy, these reprints were some of the earliest mass-market paperbacks, with Austen's beloved stories squeezed into tight columns on thin, cheap paper. Few of these hard-lived bargain books survive, yet they made a substantial difference to Austen's early readership. These were the books bought and read by ordinary people.

Packed with nearly 100 full-color photographs of dazzling, sometimes gaudy, sometimes tasteless covers, The Lost Books of Jane Austen is a unique history of these rare and forgotten Austen volumes. Such shoddy editions, Janine Barchas argues, were instrumental in bringing Austen's work and reputation before the general public. Only by examining them can we grasp the chaotic range of Austen's popular reach among working-class readers.

Informed by the author's years of unconventional book hunting, The Lost Books of Jane Austen will surprise even the most ardent Janeite with glimpses of scruffy survivors that challenge the prevailing story of the author's steady and genteel rise. Thoroughly innovative and occasionally irreverent, this book will appeal in equal measure to book historians, Austen fans, and scholars of literary celebrity.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781421431598
Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
Publication date: 10/08/2019
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 501,061
Product dimensions: 8.50(w) x 9.60(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Janine Barchas is the Louann and Larry Temple Centennial Professor of English Literature at the University of Texas at Austin. She is the author of Matters of Fact in Jane Austen: History, Location, and Celebrity and Graphic Design, Print Culture, and the Eighteenth-Century Novel. She is also the creator behind What Jane Saw (

Table of Contents

Vignette I. Marianne & Gertrude
Introduction. Austen on the Cheap
Vignette II. Emma at the Seaside
Chapter 1. Paperback Fighter: Austen for the People
Vignette III. The Old Sea Captain & William Price
Chapter 2. Sense, Sensibility, and Soap: Lever Promotions in the 1890s
Vignette IV. Charlotte & a Real Castle
Chapter 3. Looking Divine: Wrapping Austen in the Religious
Vignette V. Young Heman's Summer in Paris
Chapter 4. Selling with Paintings: A Curious History of the Cheap Prestige Reprint
Vignette VI. Lady Isabella's Mansfield Park
Chapter 5. Pinking Jane Austen: The Turn to "Chick Lit"
Vignette VII. Annie's Prized Gift
Selected Works Cited

What People are Saying About This

Jon Klancher

"Janine Barchas's new book makes a fascinating breakthrough in print history, opening up a fresh 'everyday' history of publishing and reading that goes far beyond elite publishers and libraries. Her visually resplendent study is based on an innovative research method in which Ebay auctions and private collections count as much as any traditional print archive. A scholarly performance not to be missed."

Leah Price

"This ferociously researched book proves that a fresh set of methods can teach us something new about even this much-studied author. Barchas's innovatively defined evidence base steers a middle course between traditional interest in letters, diaries, and published criticism as sources of reception history, and the interest in kitsch collectibles and fan fiction that began several decades ago."

Devoney Looser

"In this groundbreaking, exquisitely researched, and stunningly illustrated book, Janine Barchas uncovers the unsung and ordinary editions—the 'lost' books—that profoundly shaped Austen's afterlife and evolving literary reputation. The Lost Books of Jane Austen proves once and for all that accounts of the once-forgotten Austen, the elite Austen, and the chick-lit Austen are perfectly partial. It's absolutely delightful to discover, thanks to Barchas, all that we've missed."

Deidre Shauna Lynch

"Before Jane Austen was great, she was popular, Janine Barchas contends in this original, often audacious study. Thanks to Barchas's tremendous talents as book historian and book sleuth, we have new tools with which to assess that popularity and a new model of how to write reception history."

Jonathan Rose

"Janine Barchas demonstrates that literary works are canonized not by first editions, but by cheap reprints. She has tracked down tattered Victorian volumes of Jane Austen, the ephemeral publications through which Austen reached a mass audience. This is a strikingly innovative approach to the history of reading, which illuminates how popular books become Great Books."

Peter Sabor

"A major new work by Janine Barchas, an outstanding critic both of Jane Austen and of book history. The Lost Books of Jane Austen is cogent and persuasive."

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