Recently Sotheby’s has auctioned a rare manuscript of an unfinished novel written by the well known and famous writer/novelist, Jane Austen. This rare manuscript was sold for the astronomical amount of 993.250 Sterling Pounds (1623K USD) to the Bodleian Oxford library and one can say that it stayed ‘’home’’ in the UK. Rare manuscripts have been targeted by public as well as private institutions, in recent years, inflating prices.
The unfinished manuscript is a novel titled ‘’The Watsons’’ and it is about the story of a young lady who returns home to the house of her father after being raised by a rich aunt. The story takes place in 1804. Gabriel Heiton, of the Sotheby’s firm, stated that the manuscript is particularly enlightening since it is actually the draft of the whole novel. Each and every page is full of arrows, reviews and extra writings, scripts embedded between the lines.
Even though the rare manuscript has been initially evaluated by Sotheby’s to be worth 300K Sterling pounds ( .5M USD) it was eventually sold for the astronomical amount of 1.6M USD, which is indicative of the great value that some of the rarest of these manuscripts can possess. In this particular case the manuscript passed from the hands of individual rare book collectors to the hands of a public institution, the Oxford Library. A large amount of the money paid, about 1.2M USD, came from the ‘’Institute of National Heritage’’ of UK. Many more organizations, such as ‘’The friends of the National Libraries’’ and ‘’The Jane Austen Institute’’, contributed funds towards the purchase.
The odds of this rare manuscript being sold to ‘’foreign’’, not British, buyers were significant and it would have resulted in the transfer of the manuscript abroad. It should be noted that already 8 pages of this rare manuscript have been acquired by the Morgan Library of New York. It is therefore for this reason that Richard Ovenden of the Bodleian Library has rushed to state: ‘’We are very glad that we have secured a valuable part of our National Literature heritage and this will stay in Britain’’. Carole Souter of the National Heritage Institute, further added: ‘’ This was an unprecedented opportunity for us to acquire the only survived novel plan of our popular novelist.’’
Jane Austen published 6 completed novels including, ‘’Sense and Sensibility’’ and the most famous of all,’’ Pride and Prejudice’’, before she died in 1817 at the age of 41. With the exception of this manuscript, two chapters of the novel ‘’Persuasion’’, two other novels called ‘’Susan’’ and ‘’Standiton’’, there are very few surviving hand sketches of Jane Austin.
The priceless and indeed rare manuscript of ‘’The Watsons’’ will be available to be viewed and admired by the public in the autumn of 2011.