PEI

L.M. Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables manuscript going online

Starting in 2022, people will be able to read Anne of Green Gables online thanks to a new digital version of Lucy Maud Montgomery's original manuscript. 

Project will enrich 853-page manuscript with commentary, research, videos

People who visit the site will be able to see all 853 pages of the manuscript, including notes and short snippets of work that Montgomery jotted on the backs of her manuscript pages.  (Nimbus Publishing)

Starting in 2022, people will be able to read Anne of Green Gables online thanks to a new digital version of Lucy Maud Montgomery's original manuscript. 

The hand-written manuscript will be the centrepiece of a digital exhibition involving the Confederation Centre Art Gallery (CCAG) and the University of Prince Edward Island's L.M. Montgomery Institute and the Robertson Library.

"It will allow readers and fans from around the world to really look at Montgomery's writing process," said gallery director Kevin Rice.

Anne of Green Gables was released in June 1908, after previously being rejected by at least five publishers. 

Montgomery received her first royalty cheque for about $1,730 in 1909. The book has gone to sell more than 50 million copies worldwide by some estimates.

The author gave conflicting accounts over the years about her inspiration for the story. She did mention reading a newspaper story about an elderly couple who tried to adopt a boy but received a girl instead; her own tale was set in her native Prince Edward Island. 

The first page of L.M. Montgomery's 853-page manuscript for Anne of Green Gables shows the author's own amendments. (Confederation Centre Art Gallery/collection)

Montgomery scholar Emily Woster will curate the project. She expects high interest from scholars and from Anne fans.

 "We know scholars are interested," said Woster. "It is kind of a balancing act trying to hit both audiences but in my own experience, Montgomery readers and scholars are excited about any new finding or material that's available."

The exhibition will be titled "Exploring a National Treasure: L.M. Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables Manuscript." 

People who visit the site will be able to see all 853 pages of the manuscript, including notes and short snippets of work that Montgomery jotted on the backs of her manuscript pages.

Virtual Museum providing funding

The Virtual Museum of Canada is providing $230,000 in funding, according to Rice. The manuscript is currently housed at the CCAG. The gallery acquired the pen-and-ink-on-paper manuscript for its permanent collection in 1967. Portions of it are on public display from time to time. Rice believes digitization will help preserve the original.

"We have this very high-quality digital copy of the manuscript, that means we have to handle the original less frequently," said Rice.

L.M. Montgomery Institute founder Elizabeth Epperly will act as a consultant to the project. It will offer new research and commentary, as well videos of places on Prince Edward Island represented in the book and animations of key moments that inspired Montgomery.

The curator hopes this online digital archive inspires readers to visit the place where the book was written. 

"Hopefully nudging them to come visit the Island," said Woster. "If you like this taste of Montgomery's Island, maybe go see the real thing."

More from CBC P.E.I.

Clarifications

  • An earlier version of this story said without qualification that more than 50 million copies of "Anne of Green Gables" have been sold around the world since its publication. This is merely an estimate, Montgomery scholars say. Dr. Elizabeth Epperly, founder of the L.M. Montgomery Institute, calls it an informed "best guess." Also, the source of Montgomery's inspiration was cited as a newspaper story about an English couple. The author herself gave conflicting versions of her inspiration for the "wrong-gender orphan" theme.
    Aug 14, 2020 10:09 AM AT

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