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Mystery Of Jane Austen’s Inscribed Gift Of “Emma’ To Her Friend Anne Sharp For Sale At Bonhams

jane-austen.jpgA rare presentation copy of a first edition book by one of England’s greatest female novelists will be sold for an estimated £50,000 at Bonhams on 24 June at 101 New Bond Street, London. The three-volume set of Emma by Jane Austen (1775-1817) – author of Pride & Prejudice, and Sense & Sensibility – is inscribed on behalf of Austen to her friend and governess Anne Sharp.

The British vendor of the book, who wishes to remain anonymous, says: “The novel had been sitting in my family library for at least three generations and it remains a mystery as to how the book first got there.”

Jane Austen’s publisher was asked by the author to send out twelve presentation copies to friends and family. The copy to be sold by Bonhams was the last on Austen’s list, and was sent to Anne Sharp, who, initially, had been governess to the children of Jane Austen’s brother Edward, and later had remained her good friend.

Jane Austen was evidently influenced by her friend’s occupation – creating the governess character of Miss Taylor in her novel Emma.

Bonhams has a strong track record of achieving high prices for first edition copies of classic literature. In March 2008, Bonhams sold a rare inscribed first edition of J R R Tolkien’s The Hobbit for a world-record breaking £60,000 and in November 2007, it sold a rare first edition of Emily Brontë’s tragic love story Wuthering Heights for £114,000.

The story of Emma was first published in 1816 and follows the perils of misconstrued romance in Regency England. Emma Woodhouse, a young woman of age 21, is the novel’s main character and is described in the opening paragraph as “handsome, clever, and rich” but also “slightly” spoiled. She lives in the village of Highbury with her hypochondriac father and vows that she will never marry. Emma’s friend and only critic is the gentlemanly Mr Knightly – her “neighbor” and brother of her sister’s husband. As the novel opens, Emma has just attended the marriage of Miss Taylor, her old governess and best friend and having introduced Miss Taylor to her future husband, Mr Weston, Emma smugly takes credit for their marriage, and, despite being advised not to by Mr Knightly, embarks on a further bout of matchmaking with disastrous effects.