Your Jane Austen Library ~ Gilson’s Bibliography ~ a Review

Gilson, David.  A Bibliography of Jane AustenNew Introduction and Corrections by the Author.  Winchester: St. Paul’s Bibliographies  / New Castle, Delaware: Oak Knoll Press, 1997.


 I am often asked what I would consider the most important book to add to ones own “Jane Austen Library.”  Primary sources of course, the Chapman Oxford set of all the novels, minor works, juvenilia, etc – these volumes remain the source for citation in any scholarly work.  The new Cambridge edition would be lovely, but presently beyond my pocketbook, so the local University Library suffices for this ;  though I do wonder when this edition of the works will supplant the Chapman for citation purposes – shall start saving now…

But after that, what?   I would choose and most highly recommend David Gilson’s Bibliography of Jane Austen.  Originally published in 1982, Gilson had set out to revise and update the Sir Geoffrey Keynes’ 1929 Nonesuch Press Austen bibliography, after discovering the lack of information in the Keynes relating to the early American editions of Austen’s works.  Gilson wrote about these and other discoveries of the various early translations in his articles for The Book Collector.  At Keynes’ suggestion, Gilson began a second edition but found it best to present a whole new work based on Keynes but with much additional information and to include the work of Chapman in his 1955 Austen bibliography.  The 1997 edition is not a revision of the 1982 work but does include a new introduction, corrections, some additions, and a brief bibliographic essay on material published since 1978It is less physically attractive and lacks the frontispiece illustrations of the 1st edition, but I consider this very comprehensive work [at 877 pages!] the starting point for all Austen research. Gilson writes a very informative essay prefacing each of the twelve chapters, includes a chronological listing of editions and reprints and an exhaustive index that links back to all the entries.

I offer here a brief capsule of each of these chapters:  

A.  The Original Editions:  Gilson follows the principles set down by Philip Gaskell in his New Introduction to Bibliography [1972] and the entry for each original edition is exhaustive: full bibliographical details of the physical book [title; collation; contents; technical notes on the paper, printing, headlines, chapter headings and endings, binding; etc]; its publishing history; reviews and contemporary comments; later publishing history; auction records [fascinating!]; listing of copies examined; and other copies known to exist. [I LOVE this stuff!] 

B.  First American Editions:  as Austen mentions nothing about foreign editions of her work, Gilson assumes she knew nothing about the Emma that was published by Matthew Carey in 1816, a very rare edition, and unknown of by the earlier bibliographers – [Gilson B1].  Gilson again gives full bibliographical data as for the original editions, noting the textual variations in punctuation and spelling. 

C. Translations:  as Gilson states, despite that “JA’s opinion of the French seems not to have been high [citing her letter of Sept  8, 1816]…the French first paid her the compliment of translating her novels in 1813 and 1815.” [Gilson, p. 135]  Same full bibliographic details here for the various translations. 

D.  Editions Published by Richard Bentley:  no reissue of Austen’s novels is known after 1818 until 1832 when Richard Bentley decided to include them in his series of Standard Novels [quoting Chapman].  The copyrights had been sold to him by Cassandra for £210 and the P&P copyright was purchased from Egerton for £40.  [Gilson, p. 211]  Covers all the Bentley editions through 1882, with bibliographical details. 

E.  Later Editions and Selections:  lists “as far as it has been practicable” all other later editions of the novels from the 1830s onwards, with cursory bibliographical details and a focus on the statistical details for these editions, excepting the “textually significant edition edited by Chapman (E150)” [Gilson, p. 238] – there are 425 entries in this section. 

F.  Minor Works:  great literary history here! – with complete bibliographical details for Lady Susan, The Watsons, Charades, Love & Freindship, Sanditon, “Plan of a Novel”, Persuasion chapters, Prayers, the Juvenilia, etc. 

G.  Letters:  Brabourne, Bodley Head, Chapman editions, Le Faye coming later [the new 3rd edition, in 1995] 

H.  Dramatisations:  Gilson states that in 1929 Keynes could only find three dramatic adaptations, but fifty are listed here, and only those that are published works, and surprise of surprises, P&P being the most popular. [Gilson, p. 405]

J.  Continuations and Completions  [no “I” so not skipping anything]:  Gilson lists 14, adds a good number in his 1997 update, but since then the world has been inundated with all manner of sequels, prequels, and mash-ups –  this chapter is a good starting point for some of the less known early sequels that have gotten lost in the back room library stacks – some are quite good [Brinton and Bonavia-Hunt for example]

K.  Books Owned by Jane Austen:  there is much evidence of what Austen actually read – in Chapman’s indexes and other studies on literary influences on her – but as Gilson states, “the actual copies prove more elusive” [p. 431], so these twenty entries listed are noted in some way to have been subscribed to by her or inscribed in some way – the essay here is very informative and great to learn of the provenance of some of these titles Austen owned and read.  [Note:  I have set up a page in the Bibliography section on this blog titled Jane Austen’s Reading ~ a Bibliography –  a list of all the books that Austen owned or is known to have read, compiled from various sources – it makes a great reading list! – (it is still a work in progress…)]

L. Miscellaneous:  the ever-needed catch-all and quite a little find, as Gilson says “unclassifiable miscellanea (with yet a curious fascination of their own!) [p. 449] – for example an Elizabeth Goudge short story “Escape for Jane”, a romanticized re-telling of the Harris Bigg-Wither episode (L24), a number of works adapted for children, and a few works on the Leigh-Perrot trial.

M.  Biography and Criticism:  everything from 1813 on, to include books, journal articles, reviews, etc, chronologically arranged and annotated [though not consistently], 1814 items in total, with a bibliographical essay in the updated version to touch on recent resources, ALL examined by Gilson personally.  No words here to adequately explain this section – just an amazing piece of scholarship –

Appendix:  ca chronological listing of all editions, reprints and and adaptations of JA’s works recorded in the bibliography

Index:  pp. 753-877 – exhaustive!

… but here of course is where any printed book falls short – before it hits the stands, it is outdated. Recent efforts to keep Austen bibliography current have been largely produced by Barry Roth in his three works:

  • Roth, Barry and Joel Clyde Weinsheimer.  An Annotated Bibliography of Jane Austen Studies, 1952-1972.  Charlottesville, VA: University Press of Virginia, 1973.
  • Roth, Barry. An Annotated Bibliography of Jane Austen Studies, 1973-1983.  Charlottesville, VA: University Press of Virginia, 1985.
  • __________.  An Annotated Bibliography of Jane Austen Studies, 1984-1994.  Ohio University Press, 1996.
  • __________ .  bibliographies  in Persuasions and Persuasions On-Line published annually by the Jane Austen Society of North America [JASNA]: each annual issue has a bibliography titled “Jane Austen Works and Studies” [and later the  “Jane Austen Bibliography”] and is available online since the 1999 bibliography appeared in the 2001 Persuasions On-Line. [Note that the bibliographies in the earlier issues of Persuasions were compiled by Patricia Latkin, and later by Latkin and Roth together, then just by Professor Roth.]

And now the Internet with such immediate access to journals and books, tons of bibliographies, etc. has made all of us capable of being completely on top of everything every minute of the day – but for me, there is nothing quite like going to my Gilson to get back to those earlier days of bibliography, when a scholar such as he lovingly handled each work and made the effort to describe with such fullness each edition so it may become present before you [because you certainly cannot afford them!] and thus we are brought a little bit closer to the Austen we all love and admire – indeed, we can feel as excited as she did upon receipt of her own first copy of Pride & Prejudice as she exclaimed to Cassandra I want to tell you that I have got my own darling Child from London “ [Le Faye, Letter 79, p. 201]

If you don’t have this book, get it – it makes for fascinating reading! [I confess to being a librarian and I know we are all a little bit weird about this bibliography and classification thing, but this book will give you much to ponder, trust me…]

Further Reading:

  • Chapman, R.W.  Jane Austen:  A Critical Bibliography. 2nd ed.  London: Oxford University Press, 1969.
  • Keynes, Geoffrey.  Jane Austen:  A Bibliography.  NY:  Burt Franklin, 1968 [originally published in London, 1929]
  • The Roth bibliographies noted above 

A few other sources, mostly Gilson, though not a complete list:

  • Gilson, David.  “Auction Sales,” in A Jane Austen Companion, ed. J. David Grey.  NY:  Macmillan, 1986.  See also his “Editions and Publishing History,” “Obituaries, “ and “Verses” in this same volume.
  • ____________. “Books and Their Owners: Some Early American Editions of Jane Austen.” Book Collector 48 (1999): 238-41.
  • ___________. “The Early American Editions of Jane Austen.”  The Book Collector 18 (1969): 340-52.
  • ___________. “Henry Austen’s ‘Memoir of Miss Austen,” Persuasions 19 (1997):12-19.
  • ___________. “Later Publishing History with Illustrations” in Jane Austen in Context, ed. Janet Todd. The Cambridge Edition of the Works of Jane Austen, Cambridge University Press, 2005.      
  • ____________.  Putting Jane Austen in Order.  Persuasions 17 (1995):12-15
  • ____________.  “Serial Publication of Jane Austen in French,” The Book Collector 23 (1974): 547-50.
  • Latkin, Patricia.  “Looking for Jane in All the Wrong Places: Collecting Books in Gilson’s Category J.”   Persuasions 15 (1993):  63-68.       

[Image from Ackermann’s via]

* I will be posting occasional reviews of books recommended “For Your Austen Library” – these will be listed on the bibliography page so titled.  You can also visit the the other Bibliography pages for more reading recommendations.

[Posted by Deb]

One thought on “Your Jane Austen Library ~ Gilson’s Bibliography ~ a Review

  1. Have this. Luv it. You think it would be boring. Just books and dates – but no. There is so much more. I was lucky to find a used edition. The shipping from England cost as much as the book! Deb have you found the info accurate? One wonders when the next edition will arrive? With all of the new books since 1997, it will have to be multiple volumes.


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