New “Black Beauty” edition will benefit needy horses

The Mayor of Great Yarmouth joined Redwings officials and ponies for the opening of Anna Sewell House.
A Cecil Aldin watercolour from an early edition of Black Beauty.

A special edition of the classic equine novel Black Beauty is being published later this year by the University of East Anglia (UEA) in collaboration with Redwings Horse Sanctuary.

Half of the proceeds of the book will go to help more than 2000 horses, ponies, donkeys and mules in the care of Redwings, the largest horse sanctuary in the UK. The UEA Publishing Project announced the special edition on March 30, the date of author Anna Sewell’s birthday.

Its text is based on the first edition of Black Beauty that Sewell hand-dedicated to her aunts. This edition is now in the Norfolk Heritage centre.

The foreword has been written by eminent children’s author Dame Jacqueline Wilson, creator of Tracy Beaker and a lifelong Black Beauty fan. In the afterword, Prof Thomas Ruys Smith, a professor from UEA’s School of Art, Media and American Studies (AMA) and a specialist in 19th-century literature, said it had been fascinating to unearth both the book’s local history and its global legacies for the new edition.

Black Beauty is a book with so many wonderful connections with Norfolk and the world of animal welfare.

“We hope that this special Redwings edition, putting Anna’s novel to work in the service of the horses she so loved, means we might finally be able to come to a proper reckoning with Norfolk’s most successful literary export,” Ruys Smith said.

The book is designed to be as accessible as possible, produced in a font commissioned by the Braille Institute, and is being produced and printed in Norfolk.

The new special edition of "Black Beauty".
The new special edition of “Black Beauty”.

Sewell spent a great deal of time in Norfolk during her life; she was born on March 30, 1820, in Great Yarmouth, in what is now called Anna Sewell House, and her novel was published by Jarrold of Norwich shortly before she died in 1878. Nearly 150 years later, Redwings became the caretakers of her birthplace, using it to showcase Anna’s animal welfare legacy and their own work.

Black Beauty is credited with changing attitudes around how we see and work with these magnificent creatures, including helping to bring about a ban on the use of the bearing rein, a cruel piece of tack Sewell highlighted in her novel.

The new edition is being produced to mark the 40th anniversary of Redwings in 2024. There have been countless editions of the novel – one of only a handful of works to have sold more than 50 million copies around the world and remain in print 150 years after publication – but never before has its sale been used to directly benefit the animals Sewell loved so much.

The special edition of Black Beauty will be published in November 2023 and is available to pre-order from the UEA Publishing Project website for the advance price of £8.

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