Jane Austen’s rare books: Sense and Sensibility

by AndreChevalier on October 29, 2011 · Rare Book Education, Rare English Literature

On October 30th 2011 we celebrate the 200th anniversary of the publication of Jane Austen’s first contribution to the world of rare books, Sense and Sensibility. This is the first book that she published but was not the first that she wrote. Sense and Sensibility was published on October 30th 1811 by Thomas Egerton, having Jane’s brother, Henry, acting as her agent. She was 35 years old then. The book was published in 3 volumes and it received welcoming comments by the book critics of the time, giving Jane the psychological boost and courage to continue writing, while providing financial support to she and her family, at the same time. Jane published Sense and Sensibility under the pseudonym ’A lady’’ and for this reason she received no immediate and direct recognition or fame.

Jane Austen is one of the most renowned British writers. She was born on December 16th 1775 in England and died on July 18th 1817 at the age of 41. She wrote 6 well known books, four of which were published when she was alive and two which were published by her brother and sister posthumously.

The existing and surviving original first edition copies of Sense and Sensibility that are available for sale, have an average asking price of around 100.000 USD. This high price is the result of meeting a lot of the price inflating factors described in our previous article, Rare Books: What makes them rare.

If currently looking to purchase one of these antiquarian copies, you will find several copies of first editions available with varying imprints. The true first edition and the one we are celebrating its 200 year anniversary, is the UK edition, written by “A lady” and published in 1811 by Thomas Egerton, in 3 volumes.  A few copies with missing pages, and or some having some pages stained, and or having pages with ink markings, and or covers that are not well preserved, can be found for much less than the average price of $100,000. If condition is important to you then be prepared to pay well over $100,000. The difference the condition factor makes. If however, that is a price outside your budget limit, you may be interested in the first American edition, printed in Philadelphia by Carey & Lea, in 1833, by Jane Austen, in 2 volumes. That is a considerably cheaper alternative than even the torn and stained UK 1st edition. The difference the imprint factor makes.

Celebrating the 200th anniversary in a book’s life cycle is an important achievement for a rare book. It is a significant milestone usually associated with a higher price.  The difference the age factor makes. So if you are looking for a proven, antiquarian addition to make to your book collection in the near future, may we suggest some Sense and Sensibility, preferably by “A lady”.



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Article by Andre Chevalier. You can connect with Andre Chevalier on Andre+

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