The Novels of Jane Austen, 12 volumes exquisitely bound set of Jane Austen’s collected works. Bound in contemporary three quarter calf over marbled boards, gilt decorated spines with leather labels, top edges gilt. American, 1899. Approx. 7″ tall. Manhattan Rare Books, Gallery #90/212.326.8907
It has been a busy year for Janeites. As New York Times columnist Eve M. Kahn reports, likely due to last year’s 200th anniversary of the publication of “Pride and Prejudice,” there has been “a market flurry” of Jane Austen artifacts, not to mention The Morgan Museum & Library‘s current exhibition of a rare fragment of Austen’s unfinished novel, “The Watsons.” And with the Brooklyn Antiques & Book Fair behind us and the highly-anticipated NY Art Book Fair ahead of us this weekend, we’re feeling book fever too–a perfect time to highlight this gorgeous calf bound set of Austen’s collected works, published by Little, Brown, and Company (Boston) in 1899.
Austen aficionados who wish to see the “Watsons” fragment, written in Austen’s own pristine, legible hand, should head to The Morgan soon as the exhibition featuring it (among a treasure trove of other literary manuscripts from the Bodleian Library) ends September 28th. According to Eve M. Khan, this fragment cost the Bodleian Library a cool $1.6 million. Part of the manuscript also travels to Jane Austen’s House Museum in Chawton, England, which recently scored a coup of its own with the purchase of an Austen-owned turquoise ring for $250,000. Khan also reports a watercolor portrait of her recently sold to a private collector for $270, 000. Needless to say, anything around, about, or by Austen, fetches high prices–and for good reason. As Margaret C. Sullivan, author of austenblog.com, says to Khan, “There’s just so little that we cling to everything.”
The elegant set featured here, while valuable and markedly beautiful, won’t set you back that kind of money–but the impulse to own a perfect piece of Austen remains the same. Jane Austen died at the age of 42, likely at the height of her powers, if tantalizing glimpses into unfinished works like “The Watsons” are any clues. All that survives of her are a few letters and tokens, a handful of portraits, and seven perfect novels. Reports on her personal life and character are scant, and sometimes contradictory. The fullest view of Austen we have is likely to remain in her novels. Fortunately, these are works that give up their secrets over time, and as Janeites the world over can attest, are always worth returning to. For more information about this set, reach out to Manhattan Rare Books.