Daily Archives: February 9, 2021

Hardbacks or Paperbacks? The Problem with Jane Austen

We’re… still… indoors! Not under lockdown, just waiting for the vaccine. All over the world manufacturers are accumulating the following curious ingredients:

Eye of newt, and toe of frog,
Wool of bat, and tongue of dog,
Adder's fork, and blind-worm's sting,
Lizard's leg, and owlet's wing...

But more important, we are facing a Jane Austen problem.

The plan was simple: we would reorganize our books in alphabetical order by author. And then we discovered Jane Austen dominated the “A” shelf.

A newish Modern Library edition and a Penguin Deluxe Classic,

We have acquired multiple copies of Jane Austen’s books over the years, perhaps due to the JASNA influence. During a phase of profligate spending, I ordered a partial Jane Austen set from the Folio Society.

Folio Society editions

The sad thing is I do not admire the illustrations in all of the Folio Society editions. Some in Persuasion are colorful and fun, others are a little grotesque. Why do the women have such pouty lips? It’s not how I see them.

In so many ways I prefer the Penguin, Modern Library editions, and occasional Signets, which leave the appearance of characters to our imagination. I admit the Folio Society editions are more durable, and the paper in paperbacks has a limited shelf life, but I certainly can’t take the big hardcover on a bike trip.

An illustration from the Folio Society edition of “Persuasion”

And yet one shouldn’t donate the Folio Society to the book sales, because you drop them through a slot in a shabby building, and somehow they are bent and disheveled at the sales.

Perhaps all our hardcover Austen classics should go together on a bookcase, leaving the paperbacks on their own.

But any organization is better than the lack of system we’ve had.