I am always happy when an annotated edition of a work arrives at the library. I love the stories behind the stories, the tidbits, the facts, and the history of a book. We have a number of these editions at ICPL. But I am especially excited about the newly published The Annotated Little Women (Louisa May Alcott) edited by John Matteson. Matteson is known for his Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Eden’s Outcasts, which focuses on the relationship between Louisa May Alcott and her father. In this annotated edition of Little Women, he weaves family and personal information, photographs and illustrations, geographical and historical references, as well as recipes into Alcott’s narrative. There is an 1844 recipe for beef tea, which Jo has to fetch when Mr. March surprises the family when he returns from the war. There are a number of May Alcott’s paintings and drawings throughout, including the Greek figures she drew on the walls of her bedroom at Orchard House. And there is a great deal of background information, from the tensions between the current established society and the new Irish and German immigrants in 19th-century New England to explanations of all the Charles Dickens’ references—and there are plenty.
Aside from Matteson’s annotations, it is also a beautiful edition in its own right. I love the way the publisher’s choose to print “The Pickwick Portfolio” with columns, different typeface, and bordering some of the text, giving it the feel of a 19th-century newspaper. There is also a great biographical essay on how the March family resembles the Alcott family and what events inspired the narrative. If you haven’t read Little Women in a while or would like to read it for the first time, this edition won’t disappoint.