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Donna Fletcher Crow

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Donna Fletcher Crow (US) is the author of forty-some books, mostly novels dealing with the history of British Christianity. She is the author of The Monastery Murders series; The Lord Danvers Victorian True-Crime series; The Elizabeth & Richard literary mysteries, GLASTONBURY,A Novel of the Holy Grail and more. www.donnafletchercrow.com

Fay Sampson

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Fay Sampson (UK) is a writer of adult and children's fiction and non-fiction, including A MALIGNANT HOUSE, #2 in the Susie Fewings series, a British Crime Club Pick. http://www.faysampson.co.uk

Holding the Holy Grail: Jane Austen First Editions

By Donna Fletcher Crow ~ January 29, 2014

Ah, a whole week in the California sunshine. And, as if that weren’t enough, I got to have lunch with my daughter-in-law Kelly and author Syrie James. I’ve blogged earlier about meeting Syrie at the Jane Austen Society conference last fall ( http://j.mp/1bf0Gpa ) and I’ll share more about Syrie and her latest book in an upcoming blog. But for the moment my focus is on the adventure Kelly and I had following up on Syrie’s telling us about attending a Jane Austen Society meeting at the UCLA special collections library where they saw first editions of Jane Austen’s books.

We could do that, Kelly said. After all, she was a UCLA alum and we had another whole day of vacation left. I did an online chat with a reference librarian who assured me that, indeed, we would be able to see the books.

In all of my, probably hundreds of visits to the Los Angeles area, I’ve never before visited the beautiful UCLA campus and it was a delight to see it with my charming guide who pointed out her favorite undergrad haunts as we walked under the palm trees in the balmy sunshine to the Charles E. Young Research library.

And the librarians were as efficient and unfailingly helpful as I have found librarians around the world to be. We were issued our library cards and sent downstairs. An even more accommodating librarian there had us read and sign the rules: Notes to be taken only in pencil on paper they would provide— which turned out to be a bright salmon color— and photographs (non-flash only) must be covered with the UCLA watermark. Then she helped me locate the computer listings for the books I requested: Mansfield Park (because it’s the book to be discussed at this year’s Jane Austen Society annual meeting) and Persuasion (because it’s my favorite Jane Austen novel).

Inside the dark-panelled Special Collections room with its gold folding screen at one end and antique wall map behind the librarian on a raised dais at the other end. We took a moment to survey the antique books behind the glass doors lining the room: Petrarch’s Lives, Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica. . . Goodness, the riches in this room.

I was surprised to discover that Persuasion had been issued in a 4 volume set along with Northanger Abbey. Jane’s last completed novel along with one of her first, in 1818. I opened the lovely rich brown, gold-embossed calfskin cover of volume I with careful fingers and was delighted with the lovely pink, blue and yellow swirls of the marbleized endpapers.

Kelly was the one who first noticed that, interestingly, the volumes, although issued at the same time by John Murray, Publisher in Albemarle Street, were actually produced by different printers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then on to Mansfield Park. Published in 3 volumes by T. Egerton, Military Library, Whitehall, 1814, again from various printers. And, again, it was my sharp-eyed daughter-in-law who noticed the fun misprint, not in the text, but in the drop-down guide word at the bottom of a page.

Hmmm. . . a possible plot point for my next Richard and Elizabeth mystery? (Watch for Jane Austen in London to follow the recently released A Jane Austen Encounter.)

But then back to the posthumously published Northanger Abbey and Persuasion to read the moving introduction written by Jane’s favorite brother Henry who also served as her literary agent: "The following pages are the production of a pen which has already contributed in no small degree to the entertainment of the public. And when the public. . . shall be informed that the hand which guided that pen is now mouldering in the grave, perhaps a brief account of Jane Austen will be read with a kindlier sentiment than simple curiosity.

"Short and easy will be the task of the mere biographer. A life of usefulness, literature, and religion, was not by any means a life of event. To those who lament their irreparable loss. . ."

Irreparable loss, indeed. But, oh, the joy she bequeathed to us.

 

 

 

Donna Fletcher Crow (US) is the author of forty-some books, mostly novels dealing with the history of British Christianity. She is the author of The Monastery Murders series; The Lord Danvers Victorian True-Crime series; The Elizabeth & Richard literary mysteries, GLASTONBURY,A Novel of the Holy Grail and more. www.donnafletchercrow.com

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Reader Comments:

Thank you, Kelly, Syrie and the UCLA Special Collections librarians for a wonderful day!
-Donna, January 29, 2014

I see those marbleized endpapers and I can smell old books and almost feel the paper under my fingers. But no... it's just a keyboard.
-Sheila Deeth, January 29, 2014

And one thinks they should be atmospherically dusty, but everything was absolutely pristine.
-Donna, January 29, 2014

Thank you so much for sharing. For those of us who can only dream, you give substance to what the dream contains.
-- Cheryl Neruda, January 29, 2014

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