By Deborah Yaffe, Mar 3 2014 02:00PM
The library gods are smiling upon us Janeites.
As I reported in my recently completed “Watsons in Winter” blog series, Jane Austen’s niece, Catherine Hubback, was the first author to turn her hand to completing Austen’s novel fragment The Watsons. In fact, Hubback’s 1850 novel The Younger Sister is the first published example of Austen fan fiction, a genre that has, to say the least, come into its own in the intervening years.
Physical copies of the book, which is long out of print, are available only in the collections of a handful of research libraries. And to date, only the first two of Hubback’s three volumes have been digitized; as I learned when I looked into the issue last year, the third volume, held by the Bodleian Library at Oxford University, was found to be too fragile to scan.
It’s a frustrating situation for Janeites intrigued by the book’s historical importance – not to mention for readers hoping to find out how Hubback wraps up her rather enjoyable plot.
But despair not: help is at hand. Last year, when I learned about the missing third volume, I contacted the library of the University of Iowa, which holds the only copy of Hubback’s novel that circulates via interlibrary loan in the United States.
Shawn Averkamp, the library’s acting head of digital research and publishing, responded promptly and positively to my email explaining the historical interest and frustrating inaccessibility of Hubback’s work.
And now comes a happy update: Averkamp tells me the library has placed its copy of Hubback’s Volume 3 in its digitization queue, and the book should be available for Google-assisted viewing in a month or so.
How cool is that? Our happy ending awaits. . .