Hi readers! Have you seen that Penguin Classics is releasing a new edition of Emma? A 200th Anniversary Annotated Edition! If you are a reader of this blog, then you know that I greatly enjoyed reading and reviewing annotated editions of Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion these past two years! And I definitely plan to own this lovely edition one day! Below you will find a little Q&A with editor Juliette Wells and an opportunity to win this lovely book for yourself!
When we celebrate the 200th anniversary of EMMA, what in particular are we celebrating? What’s new about this edition?
We’re celebrating the 200th anniversary of Emma’s original publication, in London in December, 1815. The date of publication is a little confusing because “1816” was printed on the title page of the first edition of the novel, but it was actually released in December, 1815. I think this gives us the right to celebrate for a whole year!
And what better way to celebrate than to re-read Emma, or read it for the first time? Our 200th-anniversary annotated edition has everything you need, all in one place, to help you appreciate this wonderful novel. You can immerse yourself in Austen’s world and also have, right at your fingertips, explanations of some of the elements of the novel that tend to trip up or puzzle today’s readers.
What is it like to prepare a new edition of a book that’s so well-known and exists in many editions? What kind of research did you do? Did anything you learned during the process surprise you?
It was really important to me to create a truly new approach to Emma—a welcoming, reader-friendly approach. Excellent editions of Emma already exist for scholars and for devoted “Janeites.” With this anniversary edition, I wanted to open Austen up to people who hadn’t given her a try before, and to support their reading experience by using everything I know from years of teaching undergraduates and from talking with everyday readers. I certainly reached for plenty of scholarly and reference sources on my shelves, but I’d say my most important preparation was to have built up, over time, a sense of what readers are curious about and what frustrates them in their first encounter with an Austen novel. And, through my teaching, I’ve had a lot of practice at explaining historical concepts in an accessible way.
I also had the huge pleasure of re-reading Emma myself, slowly, with pencil in hand, making lists of topics to cover in my contextual essays and marking words that would likely be unfamiliar to present-day Americans. By doing this, I developed a much deeper appreciation of Austen’s artistry with words. This surprised and delighted me—I would have said I appreciated her artistry plenty before! But it wasn’t until I was trying to figure out how to convey the meaning of a particular phrase that I realized how much meaning she packs in with her clever, economical word choices.
Thinking about readers’ experience with Emma also shaped how the contextual material is presented in this new edition. In my experience, many ordinary readers, and even college students too, are put off by footnotes, or at best ignore them. So we decided instead to group topics together in contextual essays, which are easier—and, I hope, more fun—to read. Here too my experience explaining historical concepts And, there’s no question, the gorgeous cover by Dadu Shin is a beautiful invitation to pick up this Emma!
I agree! That cover is gorgeous! I’m sure the essays are fascinating! I definitely learn a lot when I read an annotated edition!
To enter this giveaway, tell me when was the last time you’ve read Emma. Are you planning on rereading it sometime this year? (I’ll be rereading it in December! Can’t wait!)
- This giveaway is open to US residents!
- This giveaway ends October 28th!