Reviews

Mary Shelley, The Last Man. Ed. Anne McWhir. Peterborough, Ontario: Broadview Books, 1996. ISBN: 1-55111-076-8. Price: £9.50Mary Shelley, Lodore. Ed. Lisa Vargo. Peterborough, Ontario: Broadview Books, 1997. ISBN: 1-55111-077-6. Price: £9.50[Notice]

  • Nora Crook

…plus d’informations

  • Nora Crook
    Anglia Polytechnic University, Cambridge

Here are two titles from the imaginative and risk-taking Broadview Books, the Canadian publishing house which has made a considerable investment in lesser-known works of lesser-known eighteenth and nineteenth-century novelists. At present their problem is getting known. Broadview titles are not to be seen in every academic bookshop; their address in the UK is a book distribution firm (Turpin of Letchworth) only. So their fame in Britain has largely travelled by word of mouth and through the Canadian firm's readiness to send publicity material and sample copies direct to conferences events when asked to do so. Coverage is still patchy, however; for instance, there was no Broadview stand at the recent 1798 conference at Strawberry Hill. It is to be hoped that Broadview will soon acquire enough momentum to be seen all over the place, for, with all due respects to Penguin and Oxford World Classics, the imprint is a very welcome addition to the market. Their books are well-produced (they seem to be just as sturdy as Norton paperbacks) and though they cost a little more than their rivals, they are still very affordable. Many of the items on Broadview's list originally appeared in three volumes for the circulating libraries. Never were novels more easy and attractive to read than those expensive productions. Those delightful small octavos! The wide margins, generous leading, strong paper! How the eye raced over print, especially after c.1805, when the long s was pensioned off. Nine hundred pages gone in a flash! With such luxury, no wonder early nineteenth-century novel-readers were so voracious. We shall not look upon their like again. But, as Wordsworth says in Tintern Abbey, Broadview's modern and uncluttered layout, while never looking 'in period' or attempting to be a quasi-facsimile (in the manner of Chapman's Oxford Jane Austen), tends not to make changes for changes sake, at least among those that I have handled, such as uniformly ending with 'FINIS' to conform with house-style where the original had 'THE END'. This is a trifling matter, but it inspires confidence. Moreover, meticulousness in small things is carried on up the line to the important ones. Admittedly, I am not enamoured about Broadview's use of old photographs on covers. The publishers say that these are consciously anachronistic in order to suggest the works 'may relate to periods other than that from which they emerged—including our own era' (endmatter to Lodore). Hm. It works for Frankenstein, but using a photograph of 1855 to epitomise a work of 1835 does nothing for my multi-perspectivism, and, I fear, the effect will be lost on many undergraduates, for whom the nineteenth-century tends to be an undifferentiated stretch of time. The wonderful engraved frontispiece to Godwin's Essay on Sepulchres would have made an far more evocative cover to The Last Man than a photograph of a Victorian tourist mooching about the Parthenon. That, however, is a cavil. The format and editorial policy of Broadview Books is a sound one, though one can see minor variations between volumes, as, presumably, policy has evolved. (For instance, each chapter of Lodore begins on a new page, as in the original, a luxurious touch absent from The Last Man.) Each volume has an ample historical and critical introduction, and individual editors appear to have been allowed to exercise their initiative within broad guidelines. The explanatory and informative annotation is not wasted on glossing slightly unfamiliar words contained in any reputable college dictionary. Emendation of texts is light; editors prefer to give explanatory footnotes rather than emend the texts (though I notice that there is ...

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