Jody Gayle is the editor/designer of Fashions in the Era of Jane Austen, and it is solely through her efforts that this wonderful resource is now available both electronically and as an oversized paperback with hundreds of color illustrations.
Thank you, Jody, for being my guest today, and thank you for introducing a whole new generation (and more) to Ackermann’s Repository. First, will you tell us what Ackermann’s Repository was?
The Ackermann’s Repository of the Arts was a monthly British periodical published from 1809-1829 by Rudolph Ackermann. It was a highly popular nineteenth-century publication devoted to the study of the arts, literature, commerce, manufacturing, politics and fashion. I believe a contemporary example could be a monthly version of the New York Times with somewhere between 60-80 pages. However, the Repository of the Arts included a significant amount of information provided by the readers including personal letters, poems, opinion pieces and general articles.
Each monthly issue contained several illustrations produced by artists using a technique called etching. Two of the illustrations were always hand-painted prints normally featuring the whole body of a woman dressed in the latest fashions. Every fashion print included a detailed description of the type of clothing shown, its style, cut, trim, color, type of fabric and the accompanying accessories.
In compiling your book, why did you make the decision to reproduce all the illustrations with the exact same language that was used in their original publication?
There were a couple reasons why it was important to include the language of the time to accompany the fashion plates. When I began my research I found books with tons of beautiful fashion prints. Then I began reading Ackermann’s Repository that included the descriptions and discovered a whole new dimension and depth to the illustrations. It seemed sad that the words of the past were being forgotten and I felt there would be others who might like to read the descriptions. Plus, I wanted to provide a convenient means for scholars and authors to access this information. There are over 240 issues of Ackermann’s Repository and over 16,000 pages! It can take months to research or find all the fashion prints.
Can you describe for us the some of the steps you had to take in order to produce your incomparable work?
Just a few years ago I worked for a local newspaper company and they also published a bridal magazine so I had some idea of the process of printing and design. I was able to publish my book due to the fantastic program through Amazon. It allows authors to self-publish their own digital and paperback books but then every little detail and decision has to be made by the author without the assistance of a publishing house.
I began by contacting the Philadelphia Museum of Art Library for the permission to use their copies of Ackermann’s Repository of Arts. Then I spent my time searching, scanning, and organizing the illustrations and then searching, typing and organizing all of the text. Developing the organization system was crucial to keep the illustrations and the accompanying descriptions straight. I had to be meticulous since one of my goals was to provide a resource to scholars and authors. Everything had to be exactly right and accurate. There wasn’t an easy way to accomplishing this task other than pure determination and hard work. Then I had the whole book professionally proofread and compared to the original documents.
The Kindle book was designed by me but I paid an experienced company to format the book but for future projects I can format the book myself. A critical decision in designing the paperback book was choosing the size of the book. This decision impacted everything from the fashion plate quality and detail, the book design, and ultimately the price of the book and shipping costs. In the end I chose the largest book size available and the size is similar to a textbook.
Just how many pages are in your book, and how many illustrations?
Well, since you asked I counted and there are 291 illustrations and 376 total pages. When I first uploaded my book to Amazon it was too many pages and I had to redesign the book so some of the illustrations included the descriptions on the same page. When you purchase the Kindle version there is a note to readers that due to its large file size, this book may take longer to download. Fashions in the Era of Jane Austen are the fashion plates from 1809 to 1820. My next project will contain the next nine years I was unable to include in the in the first book. I am having a difficult time deciding on a title.
Once again, Jody, many thanks for your contribution to Austen era scholars and writers.