This is the third entry in an occasional series by Christopher Fletcher, Keeper of Special Collections at the Bodleian Library. You can read the other instalments here.
It’s almost two years since the Bodleian celebrated its hard-fought acquisition (nail biting auction) of Jane Austen’s manuscript draft of her abandoned novel, The Watsons. Thank you again National Heritage Memorial Fund, Friends of the Bodleian, Friends of the National Libraries, Jane Austen Memorial Trust and all supporting Janeites everywhere.
Once a manuscript has been fetched into the bosom of the Bodleian, repaired, shelf-marked, and safely housed, it needs to be studied. So it was that at a seminar with Professor Kathryn Sutherland, an authority on Austen here in Oxford and Andrew Honey, a senior Bodleian conservator, we set about the task of looking not just at the intellectual, textual intrigues of the manuscript – the deletions, corrections, false starts - but the essential, material qualities of the thing.