I just received my copy of Little Women An Annotated Edition, edited by Daniel Shealy and I was stunned by the beauty of the book!
Don’t be fooled by the cover –
it doesn’t begin to tell the story.
This is a gorgeous oversized edition (9.6 x 9.3 x 2 inches) with an elegant choice of typefaces. It is filled with color plates, letters written by Louisa and her publisher Thomas Niles and commentary on each page which enhances the reading experience.
Shealy introduces the book with an interesting essay about the extensive revisions made to the text between its original publication in 1868 and the revised version in the 1880s. In many respects the revisions were a response to negative criticism about the slang Alcott used throughout the book being a poor example for children! Fortunately Shealy uses the original text which is more vibrant and real.
Life turned into classic fiction
A second essay includes photos of each of the main players from the Alcott family. Alcott drew from the deep well of her personal life to bring Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy, Marmee and Laurie to life. Shealy includes analysis of the era, fascinating anecdotes and great trivia.
Here is a summary from Amazon about the book:
Little Women has delighted and instructed readers for generations. For many, it is a favorite book first encountered in childhood or adolescence. Championed by Gertrude Stein, Simone de Beauvoir, Theodore Roosevelt, and J. K. Rowling, it is however much more than the “girls’ book” intended by Alcott’s first publisher. In this richly annotated, illustrated edition, Daniel Shealy illuminates the novel’s deep engagement with issues such as social equality, reform movements, the Civil War, friendship, love, loss, and of course the passage into adulthood.
The editor provides running commentary on biographical contexts (Did Alcott, like Jo, have a “mood pillow”?), social and historical contexts (When may a lady properly decline a gentleman’s invitation to dance?), literary allusions (Who is Mrs. Malaprop?), and words likely to cause difficulty to modern readers (What is a velvet snood? A pickled lime?). With Shealy as a guide, we appreciate anew the confusions and difficulties that beset the March sisters as they overcome their burdens and journey toward maturity and adulthood: beautiful, domestic-minded Meg, doomed and forever childlike Beth, selfish Amy, and irrepressible Jo. This edition examines the novel’s central question: How does one grow up well?
Little Women An Annotated Edition offers something for everyone. It will delight both new and returning readers, young and old, male and female alike, who will want to own and treasure this beautiful edition full of color illustrations and photographs.
I am hoping to get permission to show you some of the inside of this book. Stay tuned …
If you love Little Women, you will want this edition as a keepsake to pass down to future generations.
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10 Replies to “New book: Little Women An Annotated Edition, edited by Daniel Shealy: it’s gorgeous!”
I love annotated editions! I already have the Norton Critical Edition, and was thinking about ordering Elaine Showalter’s Library of America edition, but this new one takes priority. The Shealy edition will be released here in Canada on April 22, so not too long to wait.
I hope you will be able to show what the book is like inside. My favourite annotated version of a book is The Annotated Anne of Green Gables. The notes (nice long ones!) are in columns to the side of the text (instead of at the bottom of the page or the back of the book). Much easier to move back and forth between the text and the notes.
The Norton edition is a must have for any serious Alcott fan – SO MUCH great stuff! I just wish the print weren’t so small, really hard to read even with glasses. Shealy’s edition is a feast for the eyes. 🙂
I can’t wait to receive it! (April 29, France) It looks gorgeous!
I was reading it last night and if a book can be a sensual experience, this one is! 🙂
This is a lovely edition! I really love annotated books; one of my favorites is the edition of A CHRISTMAS CAROL. Yes, the annotations are at one side of the page. It also has illustrations from various editions of the book and several screen caps from the different film versions. I have a quibble with one of Shealy’s annotations and a caption on an illustration, but otherwise there is wonderful background information on the Alcotts, explanation of the literary allusions, etc.
Curious – which annotation and which illustration caption did you have a quibble with? I just love the physical feel and layout of the book, a pleasure to read!
Check the illustration on 535 labeled “Jo’s literary efforts.” If you look closely you’ll see it’s actually Amy’s will. 🙂 The annotation is the one attached to “Meg…had discovered, after she cut the breadths off, that it wouldn’t wash,” which explains this passage as “By ‘wouldn’t wash,’ Meg means that the dress was no longer acceptable.” I don’t think that’s what it means at all. For one thing, I don’t believe they did “ready to wear” back then. You bought the material and made the dress (or had a dressmaker make it). I think what Meg bought was material, but she didn’t discover until after she cut the breadths off (after which time she couldn’t return it) that the material wouldn’t wash, literally! 19th century clothing dyes were frequently not colorfast, and if you had a checkered or other patterned cloth the darker color would run into the lighter; even solid colors would smear (heck, we still have jeans that do that today…LOL). As recently as the 1960s, I remember my mom (who was born in 1917) rejecting certain types of material because, as she said, “it won’t wash.”
There’s another curious annotation where they are talking about Amy’s school dress, “a dull purple with, yellow dots,” or, as Amy describes it, her “purple gown, with yellow sky-rockets on it.” “Sky-rockets” is annotated as “Pockets.” Huh?
But, anyway, you are so right–it’s a beautiful book! I was in the middle of about four other books when it arrived and abandoned them all to read through it instead!
By ready-to-wear, do you mean dresses already made or fabric that would wash without the dye running? I think ready-to-wear dresses (dresses already made) were just coming into fashion during this period but the March family (and certainly the Alcotts) would not have been able to afford them. I forget where I saw that about ready-to-wear (maybe Shealy’s book?).
Poor Daniel Shealy! No man can complete with women who know their fashion! 🙂
I was disappointed that Shealy didn’t include a tidbit I saw in Harriet Reisen’s book about Beth’s piano from Mr. Lawrence. In real life Dr. Henry Whitney Bellows, a famed Unitarian minister and a friend of the Alcotts when they lived in Walpole, NH, took such a shine to 20 year-old Lizzie that he gave her a piano. I would have loved to have know where that fact came from because Reisen didn’t cite it and I’m sure if I asked now, she would not be able to remember where she saw it. Just like I can’t remember where I saw the ready-to-wear item! 🙂
Dresses already made. I have several books about department stores and women’s ready-to-wear was not common during the Civil War. A lady would go into a store and buy the material, the trim, the thread, a sash or belt to match, then take it home and make it or employ a dressmaker.
So it really was the latter part of the 19th century – that makes sense, particularly where the Civil War would have greatly upset commerce. Thanks for the information.