Last month, to mark its bicentennial, Penguin Classics published a deluxe edition of Jane Austen’s novel Emma. It’s a beautiful, hefty book, with deckle edges, French flaps, and a cool cover by Dadu Shin.
Beyond its obvious aesthetic appeal, Penguin’s new edition offers its readers helpful resources, including a note on spelling in the novel, a glossary, and a range of essays that offer context for better appreciating the plot (topics include “Dancing,” “Food,” and “Health”). Indeed, this edition seems geared towards helping younger readers appreciate and enjoy Emma. In a prefatory note, editor Juliette Wells writes:
This edition is designed to help. It’s a reader’s edition, not a scholarly one. In other words, the information you’ll find here is intended to support your understanding and appreciation of Emma rather than to instruct you in literary terms, theoretical perspectives, or critical debates. In choosing what to include, I’ve borne in mind what I’ve heard from students and others over the years about what has intrigued, and frustrated, them in reading this novel.
Wells’s brief introduction helps offer new readers context about the novel’s composition, publication, and reception. She even offers a short series of tips for reading Emma (sample: “If you’re feeling frustrated or bored because nothing much seems to be happening, remember that Austen’s own contemporaries commented on how little plot Emma contains and how ordinary its characters and events are”). The edition also features helpful maps (by Wells), along with illustrations and title pages from previous editions. The volume concludes with a suggested reading and viewing list “for further exploration.”
Emma is obviously in the public domain and available in plenty of inexpensive versions (like the Dover Thrift copy I read in high school)—but this new Penguin Classics edition makes a strong case for itself as the future go-to version for high school students. Wells’s editorial vision (and the aesthetic design of the book) show a strong love for Austen’s text that will carry over to a new generation of readers. Continue reading “A bicentennial edition of Jane Austen’s Emma from Penguin Classics”