Lecture | Publishing Evelina, or how to sell 180 editions of the same (old) novel?


McLennan Library Building Colgate Room, Rare Books and Special Collections, 4th floor, 3459 rue McTavish, Montreal, QC, H3A 0C9, CA

Evelina, the first novel of Frances Burney, has enjoyed a lasting popularity among reading public. It was published in more 180 editions/reprints in several European languages since its first appearance in the late 18th century. Publication of new editions of Evelina often involved a radical remodeling of the entire complex paratextual mechanism of the novel to redefine its type and genre, and to reposition it on the book market. During two and a half centuries of its existence, and without any significant alterations to its text, Evelina, a popular novel of manners, metamorphosed into a ‘regency sketchbook,’ a sentimental novel for lecteurs délicats, a novel for circulating libraries, a safe classic fit to be a Christmas gift book, a yellow-back, a book with a certain aesthetic cachet, a ‘historical handbook,’ to finally become an integral part of an established literary canon. This upcoming talk will explore how in response to new reading environment, in which it would have been received, Evelina’s paratext was recombined, changed, or altered altogether to guide the book’s perception by the public and ultimately, to influence and improve the reception (and sales) of its new edition.

Svetlana Kochkina is a PhD candidate at McGill School of Information Studies and a librarian at McGill Library.

This event is hosted by the Montreal Book History Group.