Back in 2017, Jane Austen’s birthplace, the Hampshire village of Steventon, marked the bicentennial of her death by converting a disused red telephone box into an Austen-themed book exchange site.
I can’t find any evidence that I blogged about this charming project when it happened, so I was glad to be reminded of it recently by an item in the online travel site Atlas Obscura. According to the post, the phone box—one of a type that hasn’t been installed in the UK in more than fifty years—also serves as a tiny Austen information center.
A bulletin board offers an account of Austen’s life in Steventon, where she was born in 1775 and lived until moving with her parents to Bath in 1801. And on the model of the U.S.’s Little Free Library initiative, shelves are stocked with volumes discarded by passersby and available free for the taking. (The only titles I can make out in the accompanying photos are thrillers. Catherine Morland would approve.)
As Janeites know, Austen was a devoted patron of the circulating libraries of her time, so Steventon’s repurposed telephone box seems like a fitting tribute.