Special treat for Jane Austen fans in England

WASHINGTON — Any Jane Austen fans planning a visit to England around March 1?

To celebrate World Book Day, March 1, the Bodleian Library at the University of Oxford is displaying two treasures: a cross-stitch needlework sampler said to be sewn by Austen, and a reputed new portrait of the writer. Both will be on display for one day only as part of the “Jane Austen Revealed.”

Both sampler and drawing are on loan from private collections.

According to the press release, the sampler dates from 1787 when Austen was between 11 and 12, and was given to a relation of Austen’s family. A note attached to the frame by the owner says that the sampler was “related to Jane Austen the novelist.”

A reputed new drawing of Austen will also be on display. This authenticity of the drawing has caused debate between Austen scholars and the owner, Dr. Paula Byrne. It was the subject of a recent BBC documentary, “Jane Austen: The Unseen Portrait.”

Along with these, according to the Bodleian Library’s website, will also be a handwritten manuscript of an unfinished novel, “The Watsons” and the book one of Austen’s juvenile writings, “Volume the First.”

“Volume” is also available to read in a digital version online.

Other World Book Day displays have included the Gutenberg Bible in 2004; the original “Wind in the Willows” by Kenneth Grahame in 2007; and, in 2010, J.R. R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit.”


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