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Hundreds Volunteer to Assist Jane Austen Museum Clear up Thriller of ‘Spidery’ Script in Brother’s Biography


Pages from the Francis Austen manuscript – credit score Jane Austen’s Home Museum

An attention-grabbing occasion occurred within the area of traditional English literature not too long ago when a 78-page memoir of Jane Austen’s brother got here into the palms of the Jane Austen Home Museum, who have been having issue studying the handwriting.

Evaluating it to a citizen science mission, the museum initially invited anybody considering serving to to electronic mail a request for a single web page to transcribe, however regardless of being useless for over 200 years, the response from Austen followers was merely extraordinary, because the numbers who stepped as much as assist almost broke the museum’s electronic mail server.

Sir Francis Austen had an extended profession within the Royal Navy, and a manuscript biography of his life and a guide of watercolor work he made have been each acquired at public sale by the Jane Austen Home Museum with monetary backing from a nationwide non-profit.

Together with pages written about his work within the Navy, with stations so far as Egypt, India, and China, it additionally incorporates content material about house life together with his childhood at Chawton, and settling in Southampton along with his sisters.

“Jane Austen left so little info on her life,” mentioned head of collections, interpretation, and engagement at Jane Austen’s Home, Sophie Reynolds.

“That is one other piece of the puzzle that may go into the museum. Students will discover it fascinating to tug issues out. It’s about filling in some extra of the small print that kind of surrounded her. We are able to see the world a bit bit as she would have achieved.”

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The manuscript is written within the third individual, and the final third was seemingly achieved with an arthritic hand, making the already extraordinarily cultured penmanship “spidery” and much more obscure.

Writing Satisfaction and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Mansfield Park, Emma, Northanger Abbey, and Persuasion all from a cottage within the Hampshire village of Chawton, Austen skilled solely reasonable success in her lifetime.

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Since her books first appeared in Richard Bentley’s Normal Novels sequence in 1833, fifteen years after her dying, they’ve not often been out of print, a testomony to which was the quantity of people that emailed the museum about serving to with the transcribing.

“Now we have been utterly overwhelmed by the unimaginable response we’ve needed to our transcription mission, receiving 1000’s of responses in simply 24 hours,” the museum wrote. “Because of this, we’re now not in a position to obtain purposes. Thanks to your curiosity and assist.”

It is going to be fascinating to listen to what’s uncovered within the coming months.

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