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.