‘Library of Luminaries’: Illustrated Biographies of Jane Austen and Virginia Woolf

Reading Time: 3 minutes
Image: Chronicle Books
Image: Chronicle Books

Chronicle Books has begun a series of books about important people in history, in relatively short, beautifully illustrated volumes. Though not long, these books contain plenty of detail, painting pictures of the luminaries’ lives. Unless you are an expert in them already, you will definitely learn something new.

Beginning with Jane Austen and Virginia Woolf, this Library of Luminaries series is put out in an appealing, medium-sized square hardback format. You won’t find dense text in these books. Though you can read them in one sitting, you will also find that you come away with a new perspective on the women with a clear outline of their lives in your mind.

A watercolor of a Regency era ball. Photo: Jenny Bristol
A watercolor of a Regency era ball. Photo: Jenny Bristol

The pages are filled with beautiful watercolors illustrating the handwritten words that celebrate the writers’ lives. Both of the books include many references to just how important their families were to them, and how losing close family members and friends affected them.

Even the front and back papers are painted with images relevant to the book's subject. Photo: Jenny Bristol
Even the front and back papers are painted with images relevant to the book’s subject. Photo: Jenny Bristol

Jane Austen

Austen’s book contains excerpts from her letters, facts from her life, details regarding her books, excerpts from her books, and a family tree. You can also learn a bit about the times she lived in from the paintings, such as what Austen kept in her desk, the general progress of her writing career, what might be on a table during dining time, and what she and her family did for fun.

Image: Chronicle Books
Image: Chronicle Books

Virginia Woolf

Woolf’s book also contains her family tree, quotes from her letters and diaries, and information on the Bloomsbury group she helped form. It also goes into the unconventional parts of her life, how she met her husband, their publishing company, the ebbs and flows of her writing career, what she kept on her desk, and portions of the note she left her husband before she ended her own life.

A scene from a garden in which Virginia Woolf spent much time. Photo: Jenny Bristol
A scene from a garden in which Virginia Woolf spent much time. Photo: Jenny Bristol

These two books from the Library of Luminaries series will be treasured by any lover of literature or women’s history. More books in the series will come out later this year, including books for Frida Kahlo and Coco Chanel. Engrossing and compact, you’ll come back to these books time and time again to see the beautiful watercolors which whimsically illustrate the women’s lives.

Note: Copies of these books were provided for review purposes.

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