…but with a catch.  The exhibition at the Bodleian Library is open for one day only.

If you can make it to Oxford on Monday 25th October, you will be able to see a selection of Jane Austen’s manuscripts to include Volume the First (shown below),

which includes most of her very early writings and the manuscript of  Sanditon. Also on display will be Edward Knight’s set of his sister, Jane s novels.

The display is to coincide with the official launch of the Jane Austen Ficiton Manuscripts website which we have discussed before. This site will be fully operational and open to all from Monday, so even if you can’t travel to Oxford to see the manuscripts, etc, you can luxuriate in studying them from the comfort of your own computer, wherever you are in the world. I must confess I am already fining this site terribly useful for my own research, and  am so pleased it has been brought not existence before the advent of the culture of  vicious budgets cuts  in which we now seem to live .

Professor Kathryn Sutherland of Oxford University is the curator of the exhibit.  She writes:

Being able to view Austen’s original manuscripts reveals fascinating details about the mechanics and quirks of her handwriting. Her famous description of her way of working – “the little bit (two Inches wide) of Ivory on which I work with so fine a brush, as produces little effect after much labour” is borne out by the tiny homemade booklets into which she wrote – her style is obsessively economical, in her formation of carets from recycled elements of other letters, and her layered punctuation (the merging of a caret with the down stroke of a ‘p’ and a semi-colon with an exclamation mark), and her near compulsive use of the dash to maintain a material connection between her thoughts and the paper.

She has given some interesting interviews recently to coincide with the launch of the website. The article in the Telegraph, though ever-so-slightly incorrect and with its misleading  and slightly sensational headline is of interest for it demonstrates that a close reading Jane Austen’s surviving manuscripts reveals her to be a very different person than usually portrayed, and certainly completely different from the carefully crafted image presented to the world by Jane Austen’s Victorian descendants, a process of “beatification” begun by Henry Austen in his Biographical Notice of  his sister, published posthumously in December 1817 in the first edition of Persuasion.