TWO CENTURIES after one of Jane Austen’s most famous novels was published people in Hampshire will be celebrating its birthday.

To mark the bicentenary of Emma, Chawton House Library will be teaming up with Southampton university students to launch an exhibition.

With backing from the University of Southampton, Emma at 200: from English Village to Global Appeal is set to start later this month.

The exhibition has been designed to celebrate the global success of the novel and explore its reception from readers over the centuries.

The novel, which has since been adapted into a blockbuster movie starring Gwyneth Paltrow, a television series, radio show and play, follows the life of beautiful young woman Emma Woodhouse and her comic experiences of romance. It is believed that Jane Austen wrote and revised some of her most famous works, including Emma, while living in a cottage in the village of Chawton near Alton, making frequent visits to the neighbouring Chawton House, owned by her brother Edward Knight.

Executive Director of Chawton House Library and University of Southampton Associate Professor in English, Dr Gillian Dow, are the curators of the exhibition. Dr Dow said: “Jane Austen’s Emma is often considered to be the most ‘accomplished’ of her novels, and it’s the one that is truly inspired by her setting of ‘three or four families in a country village’.”

It has been suggested that Donwell Abbey in Emma was modelled on Chawton House and that the book’s fictional village of Highbury was based in part on nearby Alton.

Among the many items on display in the exhibition, will be an English first edition of the novel, alongside a first edition from America and a first French translation – both published in 1816. Dr Dow added: “Many people are surprised that England’s Jane Austen was published in countries beyond England in her own lifetime – she had no idea, of course, that Emma was in Paris booksellers in 1816. Certainly her popularity accelerated in the 20th and 21st century making Jane Austen the global phenomenon she is today. I am delighted to be organising and hosting this exhibition to help reflect this novel’s impact worldwide.”

Another item on display is an original letter dated 1850 from Charlotte Brontë, who was born the year Emma was published, giving her critique of the novel.

Other features in the exhibit will include literature referenced in the novel, like work by authors Ann Radcliffe and Maria Roche, along with a manuscript music book – one of 18 in the Austen Family Music Books, a collection of albums containing around 600 scores that belonged Jane and her relations.

Part of the exhibition will also highlight other women authors published by John Murray, a high profile English publisher known for working with authors like Byron, including some of his correspondence with them.

Austen died in College Street Winchester in 1817.

Emma at 200 at Chawton House Library runs until September 25.