Jane Austen and The Red Dragon

The Red Dragon
by Sarah Bennett

Jane Austen’s House Museum in Chawton, Hampshire has resorted to crowdfunding prevent one of the author's letters being sold into private hands.

The letter in question was written by Jane Austen to her niece Anna on 29 November 1814 whilst visiting her brother Henry in London.

This year the museum celebrates the 70th anniversary of its opening and plans to put the letter on display immediately (once the target funds are raised) as part of the celebrations. £35,000 has already been awarded through grants, but the museum needs to find £10,000 more from the public. As of today (11 July 2019) they have achieved 89% of this target. 

If you would like to help you can donate via the museum's Just Giving page until the end of July. There will also be a fundraising event hosted by Maggs Bros. Ltd Rare Books and Manuscripts in London on July 23 where a page of the letter will be on display and Austen scholar Professor Kathryn Sutherland will deliver a talk.

A few weeks ago The Book Collector was contcted by Black Letter Press, a small, independent publisher from Turin, Italy. They were spreading awareness of their latest crowdfunding campaign to produce an English translation of the infamous black magic grimoire, Il Drago Rosso.

Founded by designer and book binder, Alice Winkler, and artist and musician, Claudio Rocchetti, Black Letter Press specialises in the revival of unusual, old and rare books on a range of topics, including science, history, poetry, occult philosophy, art, curious and peculiar novels and more.Their beautiful limited editions showcase designs, typography and illustrations that are "carefully chosen to reflect the quality and elegance of old times."

Earlier in 2019 Black Letter Press published a new and beautiful edition of Il Drago Rosso (aka The Grand Grimoire) in Italian. This evil little book claims to date back to the early 19th century, containing instructions purported to summon Lucifuge Rofocale, the demon in charge of Hell's government by order of Lucifer, for the purpose of forming a deal with the devil. The work has been regarded as one of the more "atrocious" grimoires.

Several versions of Il Drago Rosso exist with minor or significant differences. Black Letter Press undertook extensive research and translation work to create their new and "more complete" Italian version. They now intend to produce a faithful English translation of this title and have started a crowdfunding campaign to help raise money for it's production. You can find out more about the project and donate via their Indigogo page


Crowdfunding is being used more and more as a fast and effective way to raise money for all kinds of projects. In the world of books this could be anything from preservation to publishing. In February 2019, the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter celebrated 'rare and beautiful books' as part of its Exquisite Objects drive. Kickstarter is a real giant in the world of crowd sourcing having raised more than $323 million for over 10,000 projects. It's wonderful to see them showing a special interest in rare books. Here are some of the campaigns that ran as part of Exquisite Objects, the numbers speak for themselves:

Classic Books Reimagined though Illustration - raised almost $180,000 of its $150,000 target.

Letterpress Printed Hand Bound edition of The Great Gatsby - raised over $130,000, far more than it's $10,000 original target. Proceeds for this special edition will benefit a not-for-profit organisation committed to 'teaching and perpetuating the arts and crafts of the written word.'

The Second Shelf Quarterly - raised over £30,000 for their new quarterly print publication focusing on increasing the visibility of women's writing and contributions throughout history.

The greatest crowdfunded-publishing success story seems to be The Order of the Stick from back in 2012. This self-published comic had been around in paper format since 2005, but artist Rich Burlew ran out of copies of the early books and found it too expensive to print another batch himself. He took to Kickstarter, hoping his fans would be willing to front the cost. With the promise of simple bonuses like fridge magnets featuring their favorite characters, the campaign blew past all expectations. Rich had been looking for $57,750, he ended up with $1.25mil.


If you come across any more campaigns that you think may be of interest to our readers please do get in touch: sarah@thebookcollector.co.uk


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