Not sure why I should care, but Shelf Awareness for Readers brings us a link to this story from the Inverness Press and Journal about a local bookstore’s discovery of a 110-year-old set of Jane Austen amongst their stock. Maybe the most remarkable aspect of this story is that the set is still traveling together after all those years.

Photo: Leakey’s, 02/02/2021

Here, supported by two local rocks is the title page spread for Sense and Sensibility, Volume I — obviously a fairly lavish layout to require more than one volume for Sense and Sensibility! The set is in twelve volumes. The books were published, as you may see, by John Grant in Edinburgh. The article doesn’t reveal the printer.

The article includes a photo showing Leakey’s Bookshop interior with these books in the foreground. It looks like a great place. Missed it on our only visit to Inverness four years ago. (Strangely, and irrelevantly, Inverness was the first place I ever saw a charging station for electric cars.)

But hang on a minute — my own five-volume set of Austen is 119 years old — and I am not feeling any resentment about my local paper’s failure to write this up! I got it from my aunt, who got it from her godmother and first cousin by marriage once removed (is that really a kinship status?). The books were originally given to godmama Agnes M. Jennings on her 21st birthday in 1904.

My books are smaller format, but are also printed in two colors. In my set the red is used for a box around the title etc. and around the frontispiece engraving facing. It was published by Macmillan which at that time could still set its imprint up as “London: Macmillan and Co., Limited” and then on a separate line “New York: The Macmillan Company”. The books were also printed in Edinburgh, at R. & R. Clarke, Limited, a company from which I had the honor of ordering some work in my early days. The binding is half bound leather, as can be seen at my post of that title. Great great cousin Agnes Jennings wrought a cunning chemise for her books: a picture of which may be found here.

The past may look far off, but it’s actually always closer than we’d think.