A Novel, By a Lady: Jane Austen First Editions

 
Isabel Bishop, Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth, study for Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, 1940s.
Isabel Bishop, Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth, study for Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, 1940s. Sold June 4, 2019 for $6,500.
 

Jane Austen has been a cultural mainstay since her first novel, Sense and Sensibility, was published in 1811. For over 200 years Austen’s novels have been inspiring people, driving the author and her literary works to become cult classics, and garnering a dedicated fanbase which has given way to a countless number of film adaptations (from BBC to YouTube) and literary reimaginations (a modern setting, zombies, etc.), with each iteration creating a cultural impact of their own and inspiring entirely new generations of “Janeites.”

For the first time in nearly a decade, first editions all six of Jane Austen’s major novels will be offered in our winter 2020 sale of Fine Books & Manuscripts on February 20. The novels are set to come across the block in exceedingly rare period bindings, just as Austen herself would have seen them published, with half-title pages. Below we touch on the offering and what makes a first edition Austen novel special.

 

Sense and Sensibility

 
Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility, first edition, three volumes, in period binding, London, 1811. Estimate $30,000 to $40,000.
 

Published anonymously, “By a Lady,” Sense and Sensibility is the rarest of Austen’s six major works, with likely only 1,000 copies or fewer being printed for the first edition. The first version of Sense and Sensibility is known to have been written about 1795 in the form of letters. It was then revised and prepared for the press in the first year of Jane Austen’s residence at Chawton between 1809 and 1810.

 

Pride and Prejudice

 
Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice, first edition, three volumes, in period binding, London, 1813.
Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice, first edition, three volumes, in period binding, London, 1813. Estimate $20,000 to $30,000.
 

Originally titled “First Impressions,” Pride and Prejudice was written between October of 1796 and August of 1797 when Jane Austen was not yet 21. After an early rejection by the publisher Cadell, who had not even read it, Austen’s novel was finally bought by Egerton in 1812 for £110. It was published in early 1813 in an edition of approximately 1500 copies. 

 

Mansfield Park

 
Jane Austen, Mansfield Park, first edition, three volumes, in period binding, London, 1814.
Jane Austen, Mansfield Park, first edition, three volumes, in period binding, London, 1814. Estimate $8,000 to $12,000.
 

Mansfield Park was published in a relatively small edition of perhaps 1,250 copies. The first edition we are offering includes the final blanks and advertisements for the second editions of Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice in the last volume.

 

Emma

 
Jane Austen, Emma, first edition, three volumes, London, 1816.
Jane Austen, Emma, first edition, three volumes, London, 1816. Estimate $15,000 to $20,000.
 

Emma was Austen’s fourth novel and was the only one of the author’s novels to bear a dedication, to the Prince Regent. Proving that the zeitgeist surrounding Austen is everlasting, a new adaptation of Emma was released over Valentine’s Day weekend, 2020, starring Anya Taylor-Joy and Johnny Flynn.

 

Northanger Abbey and Persuasion

 
Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, first edition, four volumes, London, 1818.
Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, first edition, four volumes, London, 1818. Estimate $3,000 to $4,000.
 

Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, Austen’s first sold and last written works, respectively, were finally published in this tandem edition in December 1817, five months after her death in July of that year.

 

Browse the complete catalogue for the winter 2020 Fine Books & Manuscripts auction.