Proof of Popularity: Jane Austen

A traditional portrait of Jane Austen

Since 2010, there have been rumors circulating that Nicholas Sparks compared himself to–or even put himself above–Jane Austen in literary talents. I am here to tell you that, regardless of what the man may or may not have said, this comparison/put-down to Miss Austen is completely unfounded.

In a similar way, many people only think of Jane Austen as some other dead author, someone whose works hold no interest for our generation. I know this, because–as an early-blooming Jane Austen addict–I was the recipient of tons of odd looks. “What are you reading,” they’d say. “No one reads those books anymore!”

Well, that is simply not true. And this collection can prove it.

Jane Austen’s work is, admittedly, around 200 years old, but it is still loved by readers today…readers like me. The only problem for those of us who love these books is that the author has long since passed, along with any chances of more novels being written by her. As Kathryn Sutherland states, “Austen died aged 41 at the height of her powers.” That is our problem. There is a demand, but no supply. What are we to do?

Anne Hathaway as Jane in “Becoming Jane”

Luckily, some Austenites take their passion for these books one step further than the rest of us. While we cannot bring Jane back to give us new books, ends to the unfinished manuscripts, or sequels to the existing stories, these wonderful people at least try to bridge the gap between our desperate demand and the never-to-be-had supply… They give us spin-offs.

A more…contemporary “portrait” of Jane

By definition, a spin-off novel is a book “that is imitative or derivative of an earlier work” … So in the case of this collection, a Jane Austen spin-off is a book that is either a continuation or variation of one of Jane’s works, whether it be one of the completed novels or unfinished manuscripts. And in the case of Jane’s fans (like me) who can’t get enough of her novels, spin-offs are a blessing.

Now, feel free to browse through the beginnings of a great collection. While there are only twenty or so books on this list, hundreds more are out there to find and enjoy. There are even a few movies.


Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice. New York: Knopf, 1991.

Price:  $20.00

Condition:  Hardcover

Austen, Jane. Emma. New York: Knopf, 1991.

Price:  $20.00

Condition:  Hardcover

Austen, Jane. Mansfield Park. New York: Knopf, 1992.

Price:  $26.00

Condition:  Hardcover

Austen, Jane. Northanger Abbey. New York: Knopf, 1992.

Price:  $20.00

Condition:  Hardcover

Austen, Jane. Persuasion. New York: Knopf, 1992.

Price:  $19.00

Condition:  Hardcover

Austen, Jane. Sense and Sensibility. New York: Knopf, 1992.

Price:  $20.00

Condition:  Hardcover

Austen, Jane. Sandition and Other Stories. New York: Knopf, 1996.

Price:  $22.00

Condition:  Hardcover

Aidan, Pamela. An Assembly Such as This. New York: Touchstone Book, 2006. Print.

Price:  $13.52

Condition:  Paperback

Aidan, Pamela. Duty and Desire. New York: Touchstone, 2006. Print.

Price:  $13.52

Condition:  Paperback

Aidan, Pamela. These Three Remain. New York: Touchstone/Simon & Schuster, 2007. Print.

Price:  $15.38

Condition:  Paperback

Reynolds, Abigail, and Jane Austen. The Last Man in the World. Madison, WI: Intertidal, 2006. Print.

Price:  $14.48

Condition:  Paperback

Grange, Amanda. Mr. Darcy’s Diary. Naperville, IL: Source, 2007. Print.
Price:  $11.98
Condition:  Paperback
Grange, Amanda. Mr. Knightley’s Diary. New York: Berkley, 2007. Print.
Price:  $14.00
Condition:  Paperback
Aylmer, Janet, and Jane Austen. Darcy’s Story. New York: Harper, 2006. Print.
Price:  $11.20
Condition:  Paperback
Dawkins, Jane, and Jane Austen. Letters from Pemberley. Naperville, IL: Source, 2007. Print.
Price:  $13.41
Condition:  Paperback
Dawkins, Jane, and Jane Austen. More Letters from Pemberley. Naperville, IL: Source Landmark, 2008. Print.
Price:  $13.41
Condition:  Paperback
James, Syrie. The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen. New York, NY: Avon, 2008. Print.
Price:  $11.07
Condition:  Paperback
Tennant, Emma, and Jane Austen. Emma in Love: Jane Austen’s Emma Continued. London: Fourth Estate, 1996. Print.
Price:  $1.99
Condition:  Paperback
Tennant, Emma, Nicola Leader, and Jane Austen. Elinor and Marianne: A Sequel to Sense and Sensibility. London: Simon & Schuster, 1996. Print.
Price:  $19.05
Condition:  Hardcover
Fielding, Helen. Bridget Jone’s Diary. New York: Random House, 1997. Print.
Price:  $13.54
Condition:  Paperback

Not Alone

I’ve spent the last few months telling all of you exactly why my baby is special, but now, as the semester draws to a close, I feel that I should also make it clear that I am not alone in thinking so. There are, in fact, other people who think that the Everyman’s Library is a pretty amazing thing, other people who think it is worth something. There are plenty of people who actually collect the books from this specific library.

The University of North Carolina’s Wilson Library hosted an exhibit for such people back in January of 2008. It was called “The ABCs of Collecting Everyman’s Library,” and it was so popular that it didn’t close until April 12, 2008, almost a full month after the original end date. The exhibit showcased over one hundred Everyman’s Library books, along with advertisements, bookmarks, and business records from the J. M. Dent & Sons archives. Terry Seymour, the author of A Guide to Collecting Everyman’s Library, was asked to speak at the event; you can find a copy of his speech here.

As it turns out, the website that I found months ago, that proved to be a treasure trove of information on the Everyman’s Libary, was originally created to be a companion to Terry Seymour’s bookSomehow this new discovery makes me feel like I’ve come full circle in my research, like I’m back at the beginning now that I’ve reached the end.

The Everyman's Library

So there you have it. I am certainly not alone in my new love for this Library; if I were, why in the world would a school like UNC host a four-month exhibit on it?

Edible Books

A book you can eat… That was a completely novel (pardon the pun) idea to me when I first heard of the International Edible Book Festival; it was mentioned briefly in the syllabus of our Book Beautiful honors seminar. As it turned out, our class would be participating in our own celebration of edible books.

Well, as soon as I discovered that, my brain went into motion. What sort of edible book could I create? For the longest time, I had nothing. No plans…not even the hint of an idea. At first, that was okay; it was January, after all. The book wasn’t due until April; I had plenty of time.

Then came March, and the panicking commenced.

Finally, an idea came to me. My inspiration came from a verse of the Bible:  “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). That may be true, but what if the word of God is made out of bread…or cake? The perfect pun was beginning to form in my head.

This particular idea was actually a fortunate one for me; my boyfriend’s mother, upon catching wind of my plan, immediately offered up her cake pan that was conveniently shaped like an open book. That knocked out having to sculpt the cake, making my job much easier.

After that, everything just fell into place. I could use chocolate fondant to represent the binding and a bookmark, and buttercream icing would make the perfect covering to symbolize the pages. Both of those aspects would also go very well with yellow cake, my flavor of choice. Sugar sheet letters would be perfect to form the verse.

The cake, which took several hours to construct, was well worth the effort… I won “Most Pun-derful”!

My Creation!



Back to My Baby…

Let’s get back to my baby, then.So far I have told you all about my baby as an individual, as well as her father, Mr. J. M. Dent, but I have sadly only mentioned my baby’s mother in passing. Today, I am going to right that grievous wrong and indulge myself in one post about my baby’s mother and my favorite author, Miss Jane Austen.


An engraving, based on a portrait of Jane

Jane was born on December 16, 1775, to Rev. Austen and his wife, Cassandra. She was the seventh of their eight children, and the second of their two daughters. At the proper age, Jane was sent to boarding school for her education, and her interest in writing was evident early on in her life. Her novels were published by her brother Henry’s efforts, all in quick succession between the years of 1811 and 1817. Unfortunately, Jane died on July 18, 1817, five months before her last publications took place.

But don’t let the time period she lived in fool you about Jane herself; despite the century, Jane was a rather modern woman. Obviously, she was a female writer–and a published one, at that. In all, her published works reached a total of six books that are now treasured classics.

However, Jane’s modern ideas also touched her personal life; you see, Jane followed her heart. She bluntly refused to marry for material gain; only love could provoke her to marriage, not unlike several of her books’ many characters. Because of this particular modern idea, Jane never married. Although there were men she could love and men she could marry in her life, she apparently never found someone she could both marryandlove.

Jane Austen was a woman ahead of her time, and certainly a mother of whom my baby can be proud.


All information on Jane Austen found at

Every Bibliophile Deserves a Bookplate

Every good bibliophile deserves a nice way to keep track of their books, to mark them as their own. For some, this may mean simply inscribing one’s name inside the front cover, but others may prefer something more personal, like a bookplate.

That being said, this week, I will describe my dream bookplate. I’ve spent a good bit of time thinking about how I would like it to look, and I’ve drawn up a couple of prototypes, first a rough sketch then a pastel drawing. This also helps me decide who would draw my dream bookplate:  me.

First draft of my bookplate

Every item present in my bookplate has a deeper meaning that relates to my feelings about books, but let’s begin with the colors used. The turquoise color of the background symbolizes open communication and emotional balance, as well as elevation of thought and peace. The ivory color of the remaining elements symbolizes quiet, pleasantness, and elegance.

The actualy items used in my dream bookplate also signify the way I feel about books. The trees are symbols of knowledge and life, and the number of trees (four) symbolizes stability and the feeling of being at home. The dove, as a bird in general, is a symbol of freedom and flight, but as a dove specifically, it is a symbol of peace, constancy, and good tidings.

In general, all of these things represent my feelings for books remarkably well, but there is also a more personal meaning involved for me. My bookplate design makes me think of the woods behind my home, which have always been a safe haven for me. Whenever I needed calm, inspiration, quiet, or just to be alone, the woods were always where I went. This is also true for books; I go to books for those same things.

Wet Pastel version of my bookplate



Don’t Judge a Book by Its Cover…

I admit it; I am guilty violating of one of the principle rules of bibliophilism. I judge books by their covers. And really, who doesn’t? When perusing the shelves for a good read, whose eye is not first drawn to the attractively bound book instead of its ugly cousin in the corner?

Luckily, my baby is rather beautifully bound. Sure, she (for I have decided that my baby is a girl at heart, being a romance and all that) is a bit worn around the edges, but that is to be expected from a book of  her years.

My baby's beautiful binding

My baby is a case bound book; that is, she is a hard cover. In terms of decoration, I believe my baby is lovely, as she is both simple and ornate. When looking at her on the shelf with her companions, the bibliophile’s eye is likely to be drawn first to her, due to her rather ornate spine.

The spine of my baby has been gold-stamped, in the first binding style of the Everyman’s Library. The title and author’s name, as well as the name of the publishing company are showcased alongside a lovely floral design. Unfortunately, my baby’s spine has been hidden by the curse of library stickers–truly, I detest the practice of library stickers–so a picture of my baby’s cousins will have to suffice.

The spines of other Everman’s Library books

Upon being removed from the shelf, however, my baby shows her simpler side. A plain, carmine-colored cloth covers the binding board; the only adornment to be found is the publisher’s mark stamped on the front cover. My baby is ornate enough to be picked from the shelf, and simplistic enough to be unassumingly lovely. Not bad for just a shilling in price, is it?

A Big Girl Book

In my honors course, the topic of the week is illustration. Unfortunately, my baby is what I used to call a “big girl book”…alas, my baby has no pictures. That being said, let’s take a look at what my baby does have–a beautiful title page and artful endpapers.

My baby's title page, again

We’ll start with the former. I have spent a good bit of time studying and admiring my baby’s ornate title page, and I have come up with a theory concerning its creation. I think it was engraved. Obviously, being first printed in 1906, someone had to have drawn it first, but afterward, I believe it became a wood engraving.

Let me explain what this means.  First, an artist draws up a draft of the illustration to be printed. This is then transferred to the surface of the wood block, usually by either gluing the paper to the wood or by simply drawing the design directly onto the wood. The engraver then uses a tool called a graver to carve the design into the wood; afterwards, the block is inked and printed (Chappell and Bringhurst, 185-187). I know I am not the best person for explaining how-to guides, so here is a link and a video to clear up any confusion.

As for my baby’s endpapers, I feel very blessed to have chosen the book I now call my baby, if only for the lovely endpapers inside it. As you likely well know by now, my baby belongs to the Everyman’s Libary, the title of which was inspired by the play Everyman. To honor that inspiration, my baby’s endpapers contain a very artful rendering of one of the play’s characters (Good Deeds) and a quote from the play; you can read the quote from the picture below.

To quote the famous Stevie Wonder’s song, “Isn’t she lovely?”

My baby’s endpapers


Chappell, Warren, and Robert Bringhurst. A Short History of the Printed Word. 2nd ed. Vancouver: Hartley & Marks Publishers Inc, 1999.

It’s Time…Come Meet My Family!

Well, I think now would be a good time to introduce you to my baby’s family. That is how a relationship works, isn’t it? You get to know each other first and meet the family a bit later, usually after a few weeks. As with every family, we’ll start with my baby’s father.

J. M. Dent & Sons

As I’ve said before, my baby is a part of the Everyman’s Library (Volume No. 21, to be exact). The father of this famous library is Joseph Malaby Dent, a visionary man who “remembered when he’d longed to buy books he couldn’t afford” and sought to rectify this great injustice for others (Kenner 1988, 31). Consequently, he decided to publish a library of 1000 volumes, consisting of “the greatest works ever written,” that he would sell for 1 shilling a piece (Mumby and Norrie 1974, 323). My baby, along with many others, was born from this vision, and with a library so big–of course–there had to be some sort of organization. Nowadays, the Everyman’s Library has been divided into three eras; my baby belongs to the first

My baby's carmine-colored binding

era, the Flat-Back Era (1906-1928). Back in the days of my baby, however, the EL was merely divided into thirteen sections, and each section was given a different colored, cloth binding; a different (but ornate) title page design; and the classic EL endpapers.

My baby was published in the Fiction section of the EL, giving it a lovely carmine-colored binding and a title page containing a quote by Sir Philip Sydney. Another interesting tidbit about my baby is that it was printed in 1926, the same year that J. M. Dent died. It comforts me to think that my baby might have been one of the last books whose printing was overseen by its father.

My baby's title page


Hugh, Kenning. A Sinking Island: The Modern English Writers. New York: Knopf, 1988.

Mumby, Frank A., and Ian Norrie. Publishing and Bookselling. 5th ed. London: Jonathan Cape LTD, 1974.

A Fruitlessly Fruitful Search

Let me begin by saying that I am no expert on paper. I can appreciate the smell of the paper in an old (or new) book, and I can write rather prettily on  paper. However, when it comes to identifying the type of paper I am reading from or writing on, I am absolutely useless.

I’ve searched high and low for what type of paper might have been used to create my baby, scouring the textbook and the internet, but I have been unable to find anything of real use. I’ve found websites on the bestselling books of the 1920s; I’ve found websites on vintage paper dolls. 

I’ve spent more time than I care to admit just examining the pages of my baby; for anyone who cares to know, my baby’s pages are a lovely shade of antiqued white, feel thin yet sturdy, smell rather musty (in that appealing way that only books can), and have an odd diamond-patterned texture. However, as I am no expert on paper, none of these qualities help me in the slightest.

Even though I could not find anything on the type of paper my baby was made from, I did stumble upon something very interesting…a website devoted to  the design used in the Everyman’s Library, the collection into which my baby was born .

From this website, I discovered  that my baby was published in the first era of the Everyman’s Library, the Flat-Back Era (which lasted from 1906-1928). I discovered that my baby belongs to the fiction section of the collection, one section out of thirteen. 

While my search on my baby’s paper was fruitless, I believe it was fruitful in other ways. I found invaluable (at least to me) information on my baby’s family, and that is good enough for me.

Wading Within William’s Work

A page from my baby

 Well, I thought to myself, I guess this is it for now…

I have spent the better part of the week poring over my baby’s pages and searching for a match in its typography. Thankfully, a blog on typography was quickly discovered that guided me in the right direction. I tried all the font search engines it suggested, answering questionnaires on Identifont, submitting pictures of my baby on WhatTheFont… but there seemed to be an insurmountable wall between the answer I sought and me.

All the results were different, and each result made only one appearance in my research. Finally, much to my relief, I did find a method in the madness; even though it was never the same version, the name Caslon (a type created in the 18th century by William Caslon) kept appearing in the search results. This was it; I had a real lead.

So with my newfound information in mind, I narrowed my search down to strictly Caslon fonts. After straining my eyes comparing the fonts I found to the font on my baby’s page, I really thought I had found a match. Williams Caslon seemed to match my font in almost every way; the only thing that didn’t match up exactly was the Q. Unfortunately, the dates did not match up so well:  My baby was printed in 1926, and Williams Caslon was not released until 2010.

The lead ran dry after that, along with the amount of time I had left for my research. However, I am not giving up hope. I know now that my baby’s typography belongs to the family of fonts first created by William Caslon, and I will not stop searching until I find what I am looking for. My baby deserves to know its font!