Orlando: Women’s Writing in the British Isles from the Beginnings to the Present (http://orlando.cambridge.org) is THE place to go if you want information on the lives and works of British women (and not only women!) writers. We are delighted that the Cambridge Library Collection team have been working closely with the Orlando Project both to reissue a number of non-fiction titles by Orlando authors, and also to provide links between our websites, so that subscribers to Orlando can click through to the CLC Women’s Writing landing page to order a particular book, and browsers in the Cambridge University Press online catalogue can access further information about specific authors by using the link to Orlando provided (which also appears on the back covers of the books).
The first batch of over 100 books recommended by the Orlando team will become available over the next few months. Isobel Grundy, Professor Emeritus in the Department of English and Film Studies at the University of Alberta, and one of the Co-Investigators of the Orlando Project, writes:
“Why devote a special section of the Cambridge Library Collection to writing by women? This is not to corrall or segregate women, since Isabella Bird already appears in the Travel and Exploration section, Jane Ellen Harrison in Classics, and Mary Somerville in Life Science. But the Women’s Writing section brings in texts, fascinating and historically important in themselves, which otherwise might not have been thought of.
Edith Jemima Simcox hoped that her Primitive Civilizations; or, Outlines of the History of Ownership in Archaic Communities might hold ‘a place in libraries with Hobbes, Gibbon, and Adam Smith’. But readers in 1894 were not receptive to the notion that modern civilization might learn anything from ancient cultures, either about economic systems or about the status of women.
Simcox deserves a place in any library of books whose interest has outlived their generation. Here she stands with Julia Kavanagh, who had the cheek in 1862 to praise the writing of the then morally untouchable Aphra Behn (Oroonoko, she said, had a ‘rude and careless strength [that] made it worthy to be one of the first great works of English fiction’), and with Mary Ann Parker, who spent some months in Australia in 1791 and wrote about her voyage. Parker reported: ‘I have been seated in the woods with twelve or fourteen of [the Aborigines], men, women, and children. Had I objected, or shewn any disgust at their appearance, it would have given them some reason to suppose that I was not what they term their damely, or friend.’ She remained polite, therefore, in face of hair ‘stuck full with the teeth of fish, and bits of shells’ and ‘fish-bone[s] fastened in the gristle of the nose, which makes them appear really frightful’.
Women’s fiction from the eighteenth, nineteenth, and early twentieth centuries has emerged from obscurity in recent years. This collection shows that women’s non-fiction from the same eras offers no less enjoyment and expansion of knowledge.”