Newswise — The music collection of novelist Jane Austen and her family is being made freely available to access online as part of a University of Southampton (UK) digital library project.

The Austen Family Music Books is a collection of 18 albums of music containing around 600 pieces that belonged to the 19th century writer and her relations. The imaging of the books was carried out at the University's Hartley Library in its state-of-the-art Digitisation Unit.

Professor of Music at Southampton Jeanice Brooks, who led the project, says: “Jane Austen’s novels are full of musical scenes, and this collection will help literature scholars and Austen fans to better understand the real musical environment that fed the novelist's imagination. Just as importantly, the collection provides music historians with a unique glimpse of the musical life of an extended gentry family in the years around 1800.”

Austen herself played the piano and sang throughout most of her life. She and her family carefully copied music by hand into personal albums, and collected the sheet music that poured from London presses. These albums of individually copied or purchased sheet music items, bound together, show the personal tastes of their owners – just as a digital music collection on a mobile phone or MP3 device would today. In addition to Austen herself, other women in the Austen family, including her sisters-in-law and nieces, all contributed material to the collection.

Diane Bilbey of Jane Austen's House Museum says: “We are delighted that this collection can be shared with so many through digital means, and that its availability will benefit researchers and musicians alike.”

Dr Julian Ball of the Hartley Library Digitisation Unit added: "Collaboration between university libraries and heritage partners provides a way to make fragile originals accessible to a wide public, helping conservation and reducing pressure on small museums."

This digitisation project is a collaboration between researchers at the University of Southampton and the books' current owners, with assistance from Chawton House Library. It features albums held by Jane Austen's House Museum (Chawton, Hampshire) and the private collections of two Austen descendants, Professor Richard Jenkyns and Mr Richard Knight. The release is in anticipation of the 2017 bicentenary of Jane Austen's death, so events mounted for the anniversary can draw on the music Austen knew and performed herself.

To view the Austen Family Music Books, please visit:


Notes for editors:

1) Attached image is of the music for the Welsh traditional song Nos Galan, better known today as ‘Deck the Halls’, copied by Jane Austen herself. Also available, an image of the front page from the second Austen family music book - ‘Juvenile Songs & Lessons for young beginners who don’t know enough to practise’. Please contact Peter Franklin, Media Relations, University of Southampton Tel 023 8059 5457 or email [email protected]

2) The digitised version of the collection has been made available through Internet Archive, a non-profit organisation devoted to the creation of digital libraries for the future.

3) For more information about the University of Southampton’s Hartley Library and its Digitisation Unit visit: :

4) Professor Jeanice Brooks is a cultural historian of music. Her current book project, At Home With Music: Domesticity and Musical Culture in Georgian Britain, examines the role of musical objects and practices in newly emerging concepts of home and family in the early 19th century.

5) Music at the University of Southampton is an internationally recognised centre of excellence for research in music, ranked in the last national research evaluation (REF 2014) as the best Music department in the UK. The Department has particular strengths in early music, gender studies and the history of performance.

6) For more about the Jane Austen’s House Museum visit:

7) For more about Chawton House Library visit:

8) Through world-leading research and enterprise activities, the University of Southampton connects with businesses to create real-world solutions to global issues. Through its educational offering, it works with partners around the world to offer relevant, flexible education, which trains students for jobs not even thought of. This connectivity is what sets Southampton apart from the rest; we make connections and change the world.

For further information contact:

Peter Franklin, Media Relations, University of Southampton, Tel: 023 8059 5457, email: [email protected]

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