“Peacock Edition” of ‘Pride and Prejudice’
Object name: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, illustrated by Hugh Thomson
Object number: CHWJA:JAHB89
Description: Pride and Prejudice, 1894. Written by Jane Austen and published by George Allen. Preface by George Saintsbury and illustrated by Hugh Thomson. Green cloth cover with gilt peacock feather pattern on front and spine. Gilt edged pages.
Context: Before television and film productions, Jane Austen’s novels were brought to life by illustrators. This ‘Peacock’ first edition of Pride and Prejudice, published in 1894 by George Allen, was the first fully illustrated edition of Jane Austen’s most popular novel. This was not the first attempt to add illustrations to Austen’s novels but, with 160 illustrations (including headpieces, tailpieces and ornamental initials), it was the first to fully integrate them into the novel.
The Irish illustrator, Hugh Thomson (1860-1920), was best known for his pen and ink illustrations and in addition to Jane Austen’s work, illustrated the novels of Charles Dickens, Elizabeth Gaskell and J.M Barrie. Thomson used to visit the British Museum and V&A to research costume styles, room decorations and furniture design for his illustrations. Despite that his drawings for Pride and Prejudice have a distinct Victorian rather than Georgian feel to them.
Thomson’s ability to capture the spirit of the novel’s scenes in his humorous drawings provide readers with a visual link to the story and characters that has made this edition a perennial favourite.
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