The British Library has recently lauched a currently free to purchase application for iPad, entitled The Historical Collection.

Its remit is 19th century books, and the collection is divided into various categories including, the History of Britain and Ireland, the History of Travel, History of Asia, the History of Europe, the History of Colonial North America and one that directly concerns us, Novels of the 18th and 19th Century.

The books are reproduced digitally as a whole, along with sometimes sumptuous bindings, as in this example, The Story of Captain Cook’s Voyages Around the World

and also include illustrations if there are any, again here is one from Captain Cook’s Voyages:

Currently two Jane Austen novels are included; the 1870 edition of  Emma, published by Richard Bentley:

And the 1896 edition of Sense and Sensibility, published by Macmillan, illustrated by Hugh Thompson.

We are of course nearing the end of our series on his illustrations for this novel, so this is of extra interest to us.

The collection is going to be enlarged over time, and there will probably be a fee payable for access to some titles, as this passage from the British Library’s website suggests:

Currently the app features over a thousand 19th century books, but it will provide access to more than 60,000 titles by later this summer when details on pricing for the service will be announced. The books, which are all in the Library’s collection and in the public domain, span numerous languages and subject areas including titles such as ‘Frankenstein’ by Mary Shelley and ‘The Adventures of Oliver Twist’ by Charles Dickens.

Currently the app. is free and available from the ITunes App Store. This is a very intriguing collection, and I admit Im finding it very readable. Some of the titles have been curated and set into context, which is very helpful. I wonder if they will add more illustrated versions of the early editions of Jane Austen’s works? Lets hope they do, as teh originals are ferociously expensive today.