The Jane Austen Collection at Goucher was founded with the bequest of Alberta Hirshheimer Burke (1906–1975), a 1928 alumna of the college. Shortly after marrying Henry G. Burke in 1930, Alberta began what would become a lifetime passion project of building what she called her “Austen archive.”

As a collector, Alberta was an omnivore with very fortunate timing. She purchased the majority of her most valuable acquisitions—first editions and manuscripts—in the 1930s and 1940s, when auction and sales prices were comparatively reasonable. (The manuscripts she donated to the Pierpont Morgan Library in New York, now the Morgan Library & Museum.) To these rarities she added items that only she viewed as worthwhile. In a set of 10 scrapbooks, she preserved ephemera relating to Austen spanning almost five decades, including newspaper articles, cartoons, theater playbills, film stills, radio scripts, and more. On her travels, she sought out translations of Austen’s novels, creating the only known historical collection of Austen translations in the world.

In 1989, Henry Burke bequeathed further books and correspondence related to his wife’s collecting. Subsequent bequests and donations from a variety of American Austen devotees have further enriched the collection.

Henry Burke was one of three co-founders of the Jane Austen Society of North America (JASNA) in 1979. JASNA’s archives are deposited at Goucher, as are the personal papers of many original members of the society.

Among the highlights of the collection are:

  • first, rare, and illustrated editions of Austen’s novels
  • translations of Austen’s novels into dozens of languages
  • period publications on landscape, architecture, fashion, and more
  • 20th-century ephemera relating to Austen, including newspaper articles, cartoons, theatre playbills, films, stills, and radio scripts
  • the archives of the Jane Austen Society of North America, plus personal papers of many of the society’s founding members