Austen on the Auction Block: Six First Editions of Jane Austen Classics Realize Handsome Prices at Christies

The economy might me in the tank, but Jane Austen is as valuable as ever. Six first editions of her classic novels hit the auction block at Christies in New York yesterday realizing some handsome prices.

Austen may have proclaimed to her family that Emma Woodhouse was the heroine that everyone may not much like, but the bidders certainly did. Miss Woodhouse maintained her position in Highbury society and the world by realizing a whopping $104,500, the highest bid for the Austen items offered. The lucky bidder, after coughing up the pecuniary emolument worth a King’s randsome, will take home a first edition of Emma by the author of Pride and Prejudice &c &c, London: John Murray 1816. Provenance: The William E. Self Library who acquired it from the National Library Center of Budapest. Here are value estimates and actualizied prices for the day.

  • Emma: ($60,000 – $80,000) sold for $104,500
  • Pride and Prejudice: ($40,000 – $60,000) sold for $52,500
  • Sense and Sensibility: ($15,000 – $20,000) sold for $32,500
  • Mansfield Park: ($15,000 – $20,000) sold for $15,000
  • Northanger Abbey & Persuasion: ($8,000 – $12,000) sold for $8,750

These six first editions of Jane Austen novels and many other American and English authors including Poe, Brontë, Dickens, Melville, and Whitman were sold on December 4, 2009 at Christies New York auction house at Rockefeller Plaza. They were from the esteemed collection of The William E. Self Library, one of the most important collections assembled in private hands before it was deaccessioned. Self was a Hollywood actor turned producer of such popular televisions shows of the 1960s–70s such as M*A*S*H, Batman, and Lost in Space. Holy pocketbook Batman, TV rerun revenues really do pay off!

I hope the new owners cherish there prize editions.

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10 thoughts on “Austen on the Auction Block: Six First Editions of Jane Austen Classics Realize Handsome Prices at Christies

  1. If I had tons of money this is exactly what I would spend it on. As it is, I could see forking out a handsome some just for the honor of perusing the volumes. What a treasure!

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  2. Pingback: Eerste drukken Jane Austen geveild voor ruim $ 2 ton | Jane Austen.nl

    • Enid – I think condition, provenance and demand drive the price. I think that there were actually more first editions of Emma produced than Jane’s previous novels. In the past I have seen high prices for S&S, since so few were produced. At this level of collecting, it is all about the author’s name and recent sales that drives the market.

      LA

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  3. I wonder if it has anything to do with the most recent adaptation being Emma… top of the mind awareness? I would have guessed P&P to be the top seller, just because Darcy and Elizabeth always seem to be the favorite Austen couple. That’s just my impression, of course. =)

    But hurrah for Emma and MY Mr. Knightley! =D

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    • Hi Joanna – nice to hear from you. Another first edition of Emma sold at auction recently for $80,000. I think that this level of book collector is buying for another reason than you or I. In addition to being a collector it can be considered an investment. Austen first editions have gone up incredibly in the last 10 years because of her public renown and position as an author in society. Emma is considered by critics to be a masterpiece, and this edition had great provenance and all original boards & lables. Quite unusual. Most have been rebound.

      I am sure that the BBC/PBS producers will be glad to take the credit for Emma commanding such a handsome price. ;-)

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      • Wow… all the original boards and labels… that IS most unusual! No wonder it fetched a handsome price. I’m guessing it also had the dedication to the Regent? (Or am I getting my Austen novels mixed up?)

        Regarding BBC/PBS… Yes, I don’t mind them getting a cut from the sale… if it keeps them doing more costume drama please! ;-P

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