Yes, JASNA-WI pushed ahead a month or so so that we could  hear the Jane Austen Society of North America’s President Claire Bellanti address us.  The weather cooperated and it was a sunny and warm day for our usually dreary November in Wisconsin. I guess Claire brought her California weather along for the trip.

Jane Glaser, Liz Cooper, and Clair Bellanti chat before luncheon

Carolyn Hippert, Regional Coordinator Judith Beine, and Kathleen O’Brien
Beef Wellington is always a favorite
I opted for the Walleyed Pike and it was delicious
JASNA President Claire Bellanti shows off the cake for Jane’s 240th year
though her actual birthday is not until December 16
Judy Beine convenes our celebration
Liz Philosophos Cooper. JASNA Vice President for Regions
introduced our speaker 
Claire Bellanti told us

“You Can Get a Parasol at Whitby’s”: Circulating Libraries in Jane Austen’s Time 

In her unfinished novel Sanditon, Jane Austen has her characters observe the many fine services offered at the local circulating library as indicative of the prospects for a happy future in the developing seaside resort. Jane and her sister Cassandra used circulating libraries, a major source of reading material for individuals of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. A fee was charged for subscriptions that could be by the year or for shorter periods of time. 
Hall’s Circulating Library, Margate

Ms. Bellanti discussed the forces that created the circulating libraries; of course there were no public libraries in Britain in those days. And the costs of paper, printing and binding were high. So the main impetus for the sharing of books was economic.  The costs of subscriptions varied widely but were probably no more than the price of one book. 
Temple of the Muses, Lackington Allen and Co., Finsbury Square, 1809

The above print from Ackermann’s Repository of Arts shows the premises of Lackington Allen and Company in the late 18th C. James Lackington’s bookshop was one of the illustrious sights of London. The sales and rental of books grew dramatically from the middle of the 18th century as the number of readers grew with the increase in literacy and the widespread use of whale oil lamps to provide evening light suitable for reading, a great improvement over candles.

A close look shows you Pride and Prejudice fifth from the bottom of this list.

Jane Austen’s family members were novel readers, but not all persons in the period admired novels in general and particularly the Gothic novels written by many women authors which were  very popular. As with today’s romance novels, many people look down their noses at the female-centered stories, grouping them all together. A  writer of historical romance myself, I must say such people are denying themselves a comforting form of varied entertainment…but that is another lecture for another day!

Ms. Bellanti distributed a list of library references found in Jane Austen’s six novels along with Sanditon, the unfinished work.  For Austen, the library was an essential of life, and so it was for her characters.

The Circulating Library in Scarborough, c.1818

In conclusion, Ms. Bellanti suggested that in moving her publication to John Murray in 1816, Jane Austen and Henry Austen may have ensured that her novels were taken seriously, for Murray was a serious and distinguished publisher of fine works of both fiction and nonfiction.

Image from Milsom Street, Bath

In honor of the topic of the day, libraries, Susan Flaherty created favors for all with illustrations from Austen;s novels and a “gone but not forgotten” checkout card we all loved to see again.
Great idea, Susan.

Thank you Claire Bellanti, President of JASNA, for taking the time to share our celebration of our favorite author’s 240th birthday.

Clair Bellantil JASNA President

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