Mention “the letter” to a Persuasion fan and they’ll know exactly what you’re talking about. After nearly an entire novel of will-they-or-won’t-they between the two main characters, Captain Wentworth’s heartfelt missive to Anne Elliot isn’t easily forgotten.
This fall, Chronicle Books is publishing a deluxe edition of the Jane Austen classic that contains a handwritten, period-accurate copy of that letter—along with more than a dozen other important documents from the story—designed by Barbara Heller. They’re all tucked away in pockets throughout the volume, creating a reading experience not unlike leafing through your own personal scrapbook.
You can scan a navy list for Wentworth’s name, just as Anne did during their years apart; and you can peruse the program from the concert in Bath that Anne mostly spent talking to, thinking about, or staring at Wentworth. There’s also a newspaper clipping from the Bath Chronicle, a page from Sir Walter Elliot’s Baronetage, and more.
Austen was pretty big into writing letters in real life, so it’s no surprise that this mode of communication features heavily in her works. It was while rereading Pride and Prejudice that Heller originally got inspired to recreate its letters with historical accuracy—a three-year process that involved reading hundreds of actual 19th-century letters, studying postmarks, and collaborating with calligraphers. Her edition of Pride and Prejudice was published in 2020; she followed it up with a similarly special edition of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women in 2021.