Fashions in the era of Jane Austen

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Jody Gayle

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.

Jody coverEach 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? inside-1


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.

Culpeper’s Complete Herbal

© Cheryl Bolen, 2013

As one who haunts used book sales and old book stores, I’ve amassed a wonderful library of research books, but the one volume I’ve used the most since I sold my first historical novel in 1997 is Culpeper’s Complete Herbal.

In fact, I have two editions. The first one I purchased was a paperback, and I’ve marked it up excessively. Later, I found a hardback with illustrations, but I can’t part with the first one because I’ve highlighted passages with references to what ailments could be treated with a particular herb. Lots of hours of research went into all that highlighting.culpepper

Originally published by Nicholas Culpeper in 1653, the herbal is an impressive work. My original Wordsworth edition (1995) has 603 pages and combines the herbal with The English Physitian, both written by Culpeper. (Note: Culpeper’s original spelling of physitian has been retained.) My British hardback has 430 pages.

The latter book claims to be “a comprehensive description of nearly all herbs, with their medicinal properties, and instructions for making up the herbal remedies.”

The English Physitian, originally published in 1652, has been in continuous publication since its first printing and is the most successful non-religious English book ever published.

The Herbal catalogues most every plant that grows in Great Britain, giving descriptions of the plant, what time it needs to be harvested for medicinal purposes, and which physical complaints a concoction of it will help to alleviate.

The Physitian is a primer for physicians and apothecaries. It includes information on how to make decoctions, syrups, purging electuraries (like laxatives), pills, oils, ointments, and plaisters for a wide variety of ailments.

Since the information in this text was widely in use during the Regency, I’ve used these works as a resource for almost every book I’ve published.

Here are some examples of Culpeper’s delightful work:

My son was taken with the same disease (the body flux), and the excoriation of his bowels was exceedingly great; myself being in the country, was sent for up, with only I gave him, was Mallow bruised and boiled both in milk and drink, in two days (the blessing of God being upon it) it cured it.

On ground pine, which grows low, Culpeper has this to say: It is utterly forbidden for women with child for it will cause abortion or delivery before time.

On mint, he writes: Simeon Sethi saith it helps a cold liver, strengthens the belly, causes digestion, stays vomits and hiccough; it is good against the gnawing of the heart, provokes appetite, takes away obstruction of the liver, and stirs up bodily lust, but therefore too much must not be taken.

He says dill “is a gallant expeller of wind.”

So if you need to know what your characters would take if they are suffering from gout, sore throat, headache, tooth ache, to expectorate phlegm, treat asthma, or any infirmity you can devise, check out Culpeper.