'Pride and Prejudice' on display

Rare chance to see original copy of one of world's most popular books

A first edition of Jane Austen's 'Pride and Prejudice' as it would have appeared in book shops exactly 200 years ago is the centre piece of a new treasures display at the National Library of Scotland.

The display which opens today (July 10) celebrates the enduring popularity of a book that has rarely been out of print and has inspired television series, classic films, modernisations and alternative versions.

Visitors will be able to see an original copy of the book which first appeared in three volumes in 'publishers' boards' — plain coloured covers rather than decorative bindings. The first print run is thought to have been between 1,000-1,500 copies, few of which have survived in such immaculate condition.

'200 years of "Pride and Prejudice": From Austen to zombies' tells the story of the book from its publication in 1813 through to modern interpretations which have even introduced zombies into the normally sedate world of Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy.

Senior Rare Books Curator Helen Vincent, who has put the display together, said: 'There is a reason why a book published 200 years ago has remained so popular and has become so many people's favourite novel. It's brilliantly written, full of memorable characters, and very, very funny — Jane Austen's wit sparkles off every page. Austen said of Elizabeth Bennet: "I must confess that I think her as delightful a creature as ever appeared in print", and I completely agree with her.'

Jane Austen was the first person to fall in love with Pride and Prejudice', describing it as 'my own darling child'. It was always the most popular of her novels and went through three editions in her own lifetime.

NLS has over 150 different editions and adaptations of the book and 18 of the most interesting will feature in the display, alongside a range of sequels, adaptations, and even fan fiction. They include elegant, richly illustrated editions and modern graphic novels which have helped bring the story to many more new readers.

They illustrate the changing nature of how the characters have been interpreted over time. Publishers have packaged it as 'cosy nostalgia' or 'hip chick lit' and where once celebrated men of letters wrote about their love for Elizabeth Bennet, modern editions focus on Mr Darcy, particularly as made famous by Colin Firth's portrayal in the 1995 BBC television series.

'This display is a celebration of this remarkable book: we wanted to show how different people have responded to it over its long life time,' said Helen.

Visitors will also get a chance to share their own thoughts on the book with a section of the display given over to recording people's favourite scenes or quotations and inviting them to imagine what happened next.

'200 years of "Pride and Prejudice": From Austen to zombies' runs until September 15 at the NLS on George IV Bridge, Edinburgh. Entry is free.


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10 July 2013

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