The Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, rare books by Jane Austen

by AndreChevalier on January 3, 2012 · Rare English Literature


Northanger Abbey and Persuasion

Northanger Abbey and Persuasion are the last two out of six of Jane Austen’s published works. They were published after her death in 1817. There are a few rare copies of these books available, which carry a high price despite less interest than her earlier works.

Jane Austen perished on July 18th 1817 at the age of 41. By the time of her death, Austen had already published 4 books which received positive reviews by the critics of the time and had sold well. When Austen passed away she already had completed the novels, Persuasion and Northanger Abbey, but had not managed to publish them before her demise. These two novels were published posthumously by her brother Henry and sister Cassandra.

Northanger Abbey was Jane Austen’s first novel, which originally under the name Susan, was written during the period of 1798-99. It was ready for publication in 1803, but not before the novel faced much rejection and tumult. Northanger Abbey was first sold for 10 pounds to a publisher who then decided against publishing it. After Austen’s death, her brother Henry bought the book back from the publisher, who was unaware of Austen’s fame as none of her 4 published books carried her name. Northanger Abbey was published in two volumes, in December 1817, but was dated 1818.

Persuasion was the last of Jane Austen’s published books within her lifetime. It was finished in 1816, just a scant year before Austen’s death. It was published in 2 volumes along with Northanger Abbey, thus forming a 4 volume publication. Indeed, Persuasion is connected to Northanger Abbey for three main reasons: 1) they were published together as one set; 2) the stories of both novels took place in Bath, which was a fashionable town of the time where Austen had spent four years of her life, and 3) because Northanger Abbey was the first written novel, and Persuasion the last.

Though these two novels are highly priced and are sought by rare book collectors, it is interesting to note that they have never been priced as high as Jane Austen’s other books, which have notably sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars. Please read the posting on Sense and Sensibility for the details on that. One of the factors affecting pricing of the most collectible editions of Persuasion and Northanger Abbey is the “author attribute.”  Normally these are the first editions, published by a well known and established publisher, John Murray of London. In addition these books as a set are the first and last novels of Jane Austen’s lifelong career, giving the collector the beginning and the end of a successful and much beloved writer. Unfortunately, one attribute that these books cannot possess is a dedication or signature by the author, as they were published posthumously, partly due to the male dominated times that she lived her life in.

There are several copies of the first UK edition of this 4 volume set currently for sale. The price tags of these rare, antiquarian books vary depending primarily on condition of the volumes. The first edition London UK publication is worth the highest amount, with prices varying around 13,000 USD.  Well preserved copies of the US first editions of Northanger Abbey and Persuasion which were published in 2 volumes in 1832, are priced at a mere 8,000 USD. Later US editions are priced much lower, near 4,000 USD.

Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, the first and last novels written by Jane Austen, are quite rare and should be part of any Jane Austen collection.  Insert Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park and Emma between these two books for the complete collection of all of her works published. Owning all 6 of Jane Austen’s published works in first edition and published in the UK is priceless. They span a period of 23 years, between 1793 and 1816, when women were treated as inferior to men. How much influence did that have on Austen’s writing? All of her heroines were poor and unprotected, cultivating the theme that is so particular to Jane Austen, the style that Sir Walter Scott describes as “renders ordinary commonplace things and characters interesting.”

About the author

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

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Ryan @ Your Stuff 4 Cash January 6, 2012 at 2:44 pm

Excellent article. With comic books, I have a hard time finding the inexpensive treasures in good condition. Usually, the ones in good condition are held by someone with more experience. What condition was you Spawn in when you found it?

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R Korper January 7, 2012 at 1:54 am

Thank you for the post. Indeed my family has this set as a first edition and is considering selling it by auction. Would you have any recommendation as to which auction house we would be best served by? We are located in the US but perhaps considering a house in England would be better? I would be grateful for your or anyone’s advice, as we are a bit in the dark. Thanks.

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Admin January 9, 2012 at 9:29 pm

Spawn was in near mint condition though it hasn’t been properly graded yet. Good comics in good condition are hard to find. Another potential source is going out of business comic shops. Check with any acquaintances that are affiliated with comic book shops as well.

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