Said to have been acquired by the consignor’s father in the 1970s-80s for around £500, a small but very appealing group of the works of Jane Austen produced the highest bids in a December 14 sale held by Dominic Winter (20/24% buyer’s premium).
They were not in the very rarely seen original publisher’s bindings, but were led at £92,000 by a three volume first, complete with all half-titles and in contemporary polished calf gilt, of what is generally said to be Austen’s best-loved work, Pride and Prejudice, which was published by Thomas Egerton in 1813.
Written in the years 1796-97 and initially titled ‘First Impressions’, it had been submitted in early draft form to the eminent London publisher Cadell & Davies but was promptly rejected and sent back to her by return post.
Over the following years her now famous tale was re-written and had its title changed, probably because by 1800 another book called First Impressions, a work by Margaret Holford, had been published.
First published novel
Bid to £62,000 in the South Cerney auction was an 1811, three-decker first edition of what was actually Austen’s first published novel, Sense and Sensibility. Once again it came in a contemporary polished calf binding, though in this instance one that had been later re-backed in antique style.
Egerton had undertaken to publish Austen’s works on a commission basis, both of them having doubts about their likely financial success.
The size of the first edition of Sense and Sensibility is not recorded but was probably small, perhaps a thousand copies or less, and as a consequence it is much the rarest of her novels in first edition form.
When the original print run was finally sold out, and in under two years, Austen wrote to her brother, Francis, telling him: “You will be glad to hear that every copy… is sold and that it brought me £140, beside the copyright, if that should ever be of value.”
Also part of the same property were first edition copies in later bindings of Emma (£12,800), Mansfield Park (£8400) and Northanger Abbey and Persuasion (£6400).
HP Lovecraft tales
Sold at £3400 in the Gloucestershire auction, one that ran to almost a thousand lots, was a 1939, US first of The Outsider and Others. This was a collection of what were deemed to be HP Lovecraft’s better and more important tales, most of which had been first published in the horror and fantasy pulp magazine, Weird Tales.
Other notable literary results included, at £3400 once again, but very different in content, a 1950 first of CS Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe in a somewhat frayed jacket.
A couple of presentation copies of works by Sylvia Plath, The Colossus and The Bell Jar, that sold online for £11,500 and £13,000 were featured in ATG No 2577.
Play your cards right
Plenty of playing cards were on offer and though the most highly estimated lot, a complete deck of manuscript cards produced around 1796 by a French prisoner of war, fell just short of the low estimate at £4800, others did well.
Bid online to £3400 rather than the suggested £400-600 was a complete, early 18th century deck of cards featuring songs to be performed with flute accompaniment, while a deck of illustrated ‘Horrid Popish Plot’ cards of c.1679-1704 was bid to £4300.
Rare Canton chart
Cartographic highlights were headed by an engraved Chart of Choo Keang or Canton River… of 1841 that was produced by James Horsburgh for presentation to Charles Marjoribanks Esq and the other members of the of East India Company’s Factory at Canton.
A rare chart of the Pearl River and of course Hong Kong, it sold for £7200.