Pride and Prejudice was Jane Austen’s second book, following her debut publication, Sense and Sensibility by “A Lady” . Pride and Prejudice was published in January 1813 and it proved to be such a great success that a second edition was immediately published in November of the same year. According to Sir Geoffrey Keynes, 1500 copies of the first edition were printed.
This precious novel was originally titled First Impressions and was written by Austen during the period of late 1796 and August 1797. She made significant revisions to the manuscript between 1811 and 1812 and she later renamed the story to Pride and Prejudice before given to the Thomas Egerton for publication. It is possible that the novel’s original title was altered to avoid confusion with other works. In the years between the completion of First Impressions and its revision into Pride and Prejudice, two other works had been published under that name: a novel by Margaret Holford and a comedy by Horace Smith. Austen’s unique story takes place around the turn of the 19th century and deals with “sufferings and oppositions” in English morality, education, children upbringing and many others.
Austen sold the copyright to Egerton for £110, not anticipating that it would become an instant hit. Egerton published the novel in 3 volumes and the set was sold for the amount of 18 shillings. It was well received by the critics and due to the favorable reviews the first edition sold out immediately. The second edition, published during the same year was also a success and a third edition was published in 1817. The Book was translated in many languages, with the French language being the first. The first US edition was in 1832 and many others followed.
The book received a great deal of attention when a first edition rare copy owned by the legendary US dealer Dr. Rosenbach, was auctioned by Sotheby’s on October 28th 2010. Before the auction there was speculation that the book could fetch 100,000 sterling pounds. The final sale price was for £139,250 (220,210 USD). It should be noted that since 1975 this was the first auction of a copy that was still in its original boards.
Evaluated against our rare book attributes described in Rare Books: what makes them rare, the Sotheby’s auctioned copy, satisfies the requirements of the attributes of importance, scarcity, imprint, age, condition, author, subject, association and physical properties (ISIACASAPP). Missing from what amounts to a rarer book is a dedication or a signature by the author. A very rare book nevertheless, especially when compared to what is currently available for sale. For example, a similar copy in excellent condition minus the book’s original boards is currently for sale asking $85,000. This indicates the type of effect a physical property limitation can have on price. An even less desirable copy due to sub-standard condition is on sale for $62,000. Dropping even lower, a copy consisting of 2 first edition volumes while the third volume is a second edition, an imprint limitation, brings the price down to $42,000. Full sets of second and third editions in excellent condition, are available for as low as $20,000 or less.
Pride and Prejudice is considered as one of the most important English novels of all time. Its successful path has taken many forms. It has undergone many adaptations and has been staged on numerous theatres throughout the world. It has been transferred to TV as a miniseries and the big screen as a movie. It has sold more than 20 million copies worldwide. What does all this success imply to a rare book collector? For an answer to this question please tune in to a future post analyzing investment opportunities with focus on Jane Austen’s rare books.