Monday musings on Australian literature: Juvenilia Press

Literature enthusiasts are often not happy to just read their favourite authors’ novels. They (we) want to read everything written by our favourites. This can include letters, diaries and juvenilia. I have written before about Jane Austen’s Juvenilia, including a review of her story Love and freindship (sic). Her early works provide a wonderful insight into the development of her craft – both her style and her ideas.

Yesterday, I attended the excellent Mansfield Park Symposium at the Jane Austen Festival of Australia, about which I plan to post later. During the tea-break I browsed the little sales area and came across a collection of Jane Austen juvenilia works published by the Juvenilia Press. Naturally I bought a couple of their publications. What, you are probably wondering by now, does this have to do with Australian Literature? Read on …

Juvenilia Press was founded in 1994 at the University of Alberta, but moved in 2001 to the University of New South Wales. It is a non-profit international initiative managed by the School of the Arts and Media in the University’s Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. It is, as I understand it, a teaching press. Students are involved in “editing, annotating, designing and illustrating, under the supervision of established scholars from Britain, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Spain, Switzerland, the United States, and Australia”. It is, in other words, also a scholarly undertaking. The publications are peer-reviewed, are reviewed in scholarly journals, and have been recognised by the Times Literary Supplement.

The Press defines juvenilia as early writings by children and adolescents up to around 20 years of age. It has published works by Jane Austen, Margaret Atwood, Charlotte Brontë, Lewis Carroll, Charles Dickens, Philip Larkin,  Margaret Laurence and …

Mary Grant Bruce, Early Tales

Courtesy: Juvenilia Press

Here’s the exciting part … Australian authors. Those published to date, are:

  • Mary Grant Bruce’s The early tales
  • Eleanor Dark’s Juvenilia
  • Dorothy Hewett’s The gipsy dancer and early poems
  • Ethel Turner’s Tales from the Parthenon

These gorgeous little books are priced around $12-15. As well as containing the author’s text, they include “light-hearted illustration, scholarly annotation, and an introduction that relates this work to the author’s mature writing”. The writers of these pieces are credited on the title page, as is the overall editor. For example, Jane Austen’s men, which contains four short pieces by her about men, such as “The adventure of Mr Harley”, was “edited by Sylvia Hunt and the students of ENGL3116 (English Romantic Literature) of Laurentian University at Georgian College”. The names of those who produced the introduction, annotations and illustrations are identified below that. Looks to me like a wonderful example of pedagogy in practice, with serious scholarship providing the backbone.

I have ordered the four Australian books I’ve listed here, and plan to write them up over the coming months as I manage to read them. If you would like to order any of the books, you need to print the form and mail it to the Press. Sounds like they need to get some IT or Accounting students involved to organise on-line ordering and payment!

It is in Jane Austen’s juvenilia piece, Catharine, or the bower, that we find her oft-quoted statement:

but for my own part, if a book is well-written, I always find it too short.

Juvenilia pieces are usually short, for pretty obvious reasons, but in their case, that’s usually part of their charm.

8 thoughts on “Monday musings on Australian literature: Juvenilia Press

  1. What a terrific undertaking, Sue ! – it kind of restores one’s faith (temporarily and briefly) in publishers, inasmuch as there is at least one doing somewhere entirely worthwhile. I can only think of the enormous joy it would’ve given my beloved sister Jo to have Austen’s early works so … delightfully available,

  2. It’s a delight to see the Juvenilia Press and its books so eloquently appreciated. Since I was the illustrator of JANE AUSTEN’S MEN (as well as several other of Austen’s juvenilia) and the founder of the Press, I take pride in these warm comments on my brainchild!

    • Well, all I can say is well done, Juliet. Thanks for commenting. I look forward to reading the volume. I have read her juvenilia but these pieces a very long time ago. I shall enjoy reading your edition.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s