Jane Austen Collection - Introduction

The Henry and Alberta Hirshheimer Burke Collection in the Rare Book Room at Goucher College is an aesthetic treat for the casual bibliophile as well as the experienced scholar. The extensive holdings provide students and scholars with a rare opportunity to explore a variety of sources that actually recreate the late eighteenth and early nineteenth-century world of Jane Austen and the Prince Regent. The Library's copies of the early editions of Jane Austen's novels, which are featured in special glass cases, include one of three extant American copies of Emma, published in 1816 in Philadelphia. There is also an 1832 American edition of Elizabeth Bennet, renamed Pride and Prejudice in later printings. Of special note is the first English edition (1811) of Sense and Sensibility, "By a Lady," exceedingly rare since it was Jane Austen's first book in print.

The miscellaneous and collateral material includes translations, critical studies, works by Jane Austen's contemporaries, background literature about her life and times, and audiovisual representations. Books on Georgian furniture, room plans, and domestic architecture provide a sense of the interior spaces of such estates as Pemberley, Rosings, or Mansfield Park. Ackermann's Repository of Arts, Literature, Commerce, Manufactures, Fashion and Politics is replete with fabric swatches and wallpaper samples.

Perhaps the most delightful aspect of Jane Austen's civilized world was the shaping of the world surrounding the great estates, and Humphry Repton was nature's architect, the "improver" who created the quintessential neoclassical landscape. Repton's Sketches and Hints on LandscapeGardening(1794) and his Fragments on the Theory and Practiceof Landscape Gardening (1816) form the centerpiece of Goucher's impressive landscape gardening collection.

Among recent purchases is a rare two-volume edition of Jane West's A Gossip's Story (1796), linked by scholarly debate to Sense and Sensibility. For the purposes of eighteenth-century primary source studies, this serious moral fable, written "By the author of Advantages of Education," reveals themes and characters that were highly regarded by Jane Austen and her contemporaries. Another important addition, a gift of the Washington DC chapter of the Jane Austen Society of North America, is a fine first edition of Fanny Burney's Camilla: or, A Picture of Youth , published in five volumes in 1796. On 15 September 1796, in an ironic mixture of social and literary criticism, Jane Austen wrote to her sister Cassandra, complimenting a young woman of the neighborhood: "There are two Traits in her character which are pleasing; namely, she admires Camilla, & drinks no cream in her Tea."

The Collection, which the Burkes developed with great care and perseverance over the course of 45 years, came to Goucher as a bequest from Mrs. Burke to her alma mater in 1975. Students enrolled in such courses as the Jane Austen Seminar, the Literature and Society Seminar, and The Making of Modern England Honors Seminar avail themselves of these special resources, as do faculty members and students from the English, History, and Dance departments. At present, there are more than 1000 cataloged volumes and twenty linear feet of related materials.

The attached list of books and materials is not all-inclusive; rather, we have included information about resources that we consider most important or about which we receive inquiries. Thanks to the foresight of the Burkes, whose gift included an endowment to help keep the collection up to date with current scholarship, the holdings in both the open stacks and the Rare Book Room continue to grow.

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