If you watch Booktube, you have seen ecstatic vloggers opening a box to reveal a new set of collectible classics. In order to perform this task, it is necessary for these dedicated souls to practice long hours with a letter opener or scissors. We evaluate their technique: it is precise and clean; they have not stabbed the box or tried to cut the tape with blunt scissors. To be honest, we are mesmerized by this ritual. And yet we already know what the box will contain: Jane Austen’s beloved novels.
These vlogs are fatal, like glossy catalogues or the shopping channel. I often must buy a new hardcover edition of Austen to add to my already adequate paperback “collection.” Mind you, I have no interest in collecting valuable books. These hardbacks, thank goodness, are “reading copies,” in the $15-$30 range.
Penguin Clothbound Classics are the most popular and accessible brand, with their attractive covers designed by Coralie Bickford-Smith, high-quality paper, and ribbon bookmarks. Like the paperback Penguins, they have extensive notes and appendixes. I rationalized buying Penguin hardbacks of Sanditon and Love and Friendship because I did not have them in paperback. And it is a pleasure to read these beautifully-designed hardcovers.
Let us move on to more obscure brands. Have you seen the Austen editions with illustrations by Marjolein Bastin? After seeing a vlogger hold it up FOR LESS THAN A MINUTE and praise the design, I found a copy of Sense and Sensibility at a reasonable price . The cover, with Bastin’s floral design, is gorgeous, but the illustrations, alas, do not portray Eleanor and Marianne. Instead, Bastin has chosen a nature theme: she depicts flowers, birds, and butterflies. And tucked within the pages are small envelopes and folded papers with titles like “The World of Sense and Sensibility.” I found these a bit distracting, so I removed them.
For years bloggers (though not vloggers so much) have raved about the Thomas Nelson editions of classics. These have laser-cut covers, and whole pages devoted to quotes. Because these classics are out-of-print, they are insanely expensive. But here is good news: Harper has published the Harper Muse Jane Austen Collection with the original laser-cut covers, quotes, and ribbon bookmarks. These are sturdy and have a good amount of space between the lines, which makes them very readable. I am very fond of these books, and wish I had the whole collection. Caveat: the print in Pride and Prejudice is, for some reason, much larger than the print in the other books in the collection.
How do I rate these editions?
- Penguin Clothbound Classics
- Harper Muse Jane Austen collection
- Editions with illustrations by Marjolein Bastin
Any favorite editions of Austen, hardback or paperback?