Publication & Prejudice

black and white cartoon image of Jane Austen and colored image of stacks of books

Thursday, April 15, 2021 - 12:00am to Friday, September 30, 2022 - 12:00am

When it comes to a beloved text like Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, many of us have our own prejudices. We all have our own ideas of what a “classic” book should look like, whether those involve elegant covers with a white serif font and the image of an English estate in the background, or coffee-table books with wide margins and thick luxurious pages. We’re told not to judge a book by its cover, but the way a book looks tells us how to understand what we’re reading.

This exhibition brings together more than twenty versions of Pride and Prejudice, based in the Yale collections. It opens with early editions that might be thought of as “original,” and goes on to include everything from magazines to murder mysteries. Every one of these books tells more or less the same story. But these books encompass a plethora of formats, editions, and re-imaginings. Even when they contain exactly the same words, the many small choices by publishers combine to create a completely different reading experience.

When we read a book, we don’t just read the words. We read the paper, the binding, the margins, the typeface, and everything in between. Pride and Prejudice isn’t a fixed text, and the idea of an “original” version is often misleading. This exhibition tells a visual story of how a book is changed by its publishers, and by its readers.

Curated by Emma Brodey ‘21