Pride and Prejudice – 200th Anniversary

Jane Austen
Jane Austen
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.

This must be one of the most familiar opening lines in English literature.  28 January 2013 is the 200th anniversary of the publication of  Jane’ Austen’s novel Pride and Prejudice.

Pride and Prejudice title page
Pride and Prejudice title page

Regularly voted in the top ten of the nations’ favourite books and topping the poll on World Book Day 2007, it is probably the most read novel in English. Our special anniversary blog posts this week celebrate the book and the Regency world in which it is set as well as highlighting all the amazing resources we have.

Jane Austen (1775- 1817) began writing the novel in August 1796 and finished the first three volume version within a year. It was called First Impressions and she was just 21 years of age.

In 1797 her father, George Austen offered the manuscript for publication but it was  rejected without even being seen. Over the next few years  family and friends read the novel and during this time Jane began to  rewrite it or as she put it she ‘ lopt and cropt’  the text making it much tauter.  The most significant changes occurred  in 1811-12. Jane herself  commented that she intended the book to be ‘ light , bright and sparkling’. She was forced to change the name of the novel  following the publication of another work with the same title in 1801. Jane chose a new title Pride and Prejudice a phrase she took from a work by Fanny Burney.

Unlike her first published novel, Sense and Sensibility,  which was published on a  commission basis and for which she received profits for each copy sold, for this, her second novel she sold the copyright outright to Thomas Egerton for £110. Priced at 18 shillings the first edition published in three hardback volumes quickly sold out and a second edition was published in November 1813. This meant that Jane did not receive any profits and it is estimated that she lost about £450 as a result of selling the copyright. It was re-published again in 1817.

Her work was much admired by contemporaries including Sir Walter Scott and the Prince Regent but she remained relatively unknown in her lifetime. Her literary  reputation has  grown over the years and to date it has been estimated that over 20 million copies of the book have been printed.

That young lady had a talent for describing the involvements and feelings and characters of ordinary life, which is to me the most wonderful I ever met with.

Walter Scott, Journal, 14 March 1826

As you will see from a future blog post, versions of the story have been done in the theatre, television and film. There are also and contemporary authors that have  used the work  as the basis for their own novels, most recently  P.D. James has used Pemberley as a setting for one her mysteries and there is also a zombie version, called Pride and Prejudice and Zombies  by Seth Grahame- Smith.

Jane Austen: 'Offended two or three young ladies', illustration from Pride and Prejudice, 1894 edition
Jane Austen: ‘Offended two or three young ladies’, illustration from Pride and Prejudice, 1894 edition

If you have never read this book  I strongly recommend it,  or why not re-read it  to celebrate  the 200th anniversary of this wonderful book.

Karen Ullesperger, Triborough Reference Manager
Karen Ullesperger

Karen Ullersperger

Triborough Reference Manager

Source materials:

  • Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (you’ll need a library membership to access this database outside of the library)
  • Cambridge  introduction to Jane Austen by Janet Todd (Cambridge University Press) 2009
  • Chambers Biographical Dictionary available via Credo Reference (you’ll need a library membership to access this database outside of the library)

Hot Off the Press – Times Digital Archive

This is the third in a series of four blog posts from Nina Risoli, one of our Tri-Borough Reference Librarians about two of our online reference databases:

You can catch up with last two posts, an introduction to both databases and more about  UK Newsstand. This week Nina tells us about the Times Digital Archive.

Times Digital Archive (TDA) offers access to 200 years of The Times and The Sunday Times. Just think – you can read the news as it happened from 1785 onwards!

Cover page of the first issue of The Times, 1 January 1785
Cover page of the first issue of The Times, 1 January 1785

That is, from the time when life and some of the people in the news most probably looked like this.

Theatre goers: 'The laughing audience' Edward Matthew Ward, 1785
Theatre goers: ‘The laughing audience’ Edward Matthew Ward, 1785
Benjamin Franklin visiting London, 1785
Benjamin Franklin visiting London, 1785
Fanny Burney, British writer, ca. 1785
Fanny Burney, British writer, ca. 1785
Thomas De Quincey, author and essayist
Thomas De Quincey, author and essayist
…and the shoes they wore looked like this!
Court shoes, ca. 1785
Court shoes, ca. 1785

This is the Times’ very own editor, John Walter, from that first 1785 issue to 1803.

John Walter, Editor of The Times 1785-1803
John Walter, Editor of The Times 1785-1803

Have a look at his first ever editorial (seen on that first cover page, headed ‘To The Public’), introducing to the world  the publication that would over the next couple of centuries become one of the most read in this country and abroad, with its hand firmly on the pulse of European and World history in the making.

TIP: Have your library card number ready to access TDA. Once there, you can enlarge the text by dropping down the small menu on top of the citation which states “Article at 133%”

The beauty of the database is that it presents pages as they really appear, rather than displaying dry, document-style text characteristic of more modern newspaper databases. And yet, the entire text is keyword-searchable. Keywords are highlighted in pretty pink in the resulting articles, to help you assess the relevance of the ones you’ve retrieved.

You can see layouts and fonts used at the time, pictures, advertisements and captions, but with added extras. You can enlarge text to read it comfortably – even visually impaired people can enjoy browsing the database as any text can be amplified by up to 400%. You can also single out particular articles and view just those, rather than the whole page. You can print out anything of interest with easy pre-sets or e-mail citations with a couple of clicks.

More tips on how to navigate 200 years of British and world history:

For more specific searches you can define date ranges or use particular titles or names of authors if you have them. You can search by the newspapers section and choose articles from results divided into 7 categories: Advertising, Editorial/ Commentary, News, Business, Features, People or the Picture Gallery.

You can Browse List or Browse by Date, which allows you to view the entire newspaper, page for page, with the links to the individual articles conveniently displayed on the right. Try checking the paper from the date of your birth for example, and see how life was on the day you made your grand entrance.

By far the best tool at your disposal in TDA is the wonderful Keyword Search. You can use it to research any topic of interest from the whole 200 years of publication. You can get a comprehensive overview of any subject, person or event that was deemed newsworthy throughout the two centuries, up to 1985.

If you wish to have a demonstration of TDA or UK Newsstand please contact Kensington Central Reference Library by emailing, or call 0207 361 3031. A reference librarian will be delighted to help you get familiar with the databases and set you off on your own journey of discovery. Kensington Central Reference Library has 5 dedicated computers available for researching our online databases.

Nina Risoli
Nina Risoli

Nina Risoli, Tri- Borough Reference Librarian

Kensington Central Reference Library