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.
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.
But the thing that really pricked the interest of the bibliophilic gathering was the pins in the manuscript. Before the invention of the paperclip in the mid-nineteenth century, pins were routinely used to gather together groups of paper, or to affix patches of paper to other bits of paper in order to add text or make corrections (these days we reach for the dreaded post-it note).
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