Only one of Jane Austen’s novels appeared in an American edition during her lifetime (1775-1817): Emma, reprinted in 1816 by the prominent Philadelphia publisher Mathew Carey. Until now, virtually nothing has been known about how this edition came to be, who read it, or why so few copies—only six—remain today. Drawing on the Carey archives and on a study of the surviving copies, two of which she rediscovered, Juliette Wells illuminates American readers’ first encounters with Austen.
Juliette Wells is associate professor of English at Goucher College in Baltimore, Maryland, USA, which holds the most extensive Jane Austen collection in North America, including one of the copies of the rare 1816 Philadelphia Emma. For Penguin Classics, she created a reader-friendly 200th-anniversary annotated edition of Emma, released in 2015. She has written extensively on Austen’s novels and cultural legacy, most notably in Everybody’s Jane: Austen in the Popular Imagination (Bloomsbury Academic, 2011), an exploration of Austen’s importance to readers today. Her current book project, a reception history, is titled Reading Austen in America.