Last night the BBC aired its latest edition of the Antiques Roadshow filmed last summer at the wonderful Stanway House, near Cheltenham in Gloucestershire which has always been one of my favourite places in England to visit , with its magical garden, originally planned by Charles Bridgeman in the 18th century,and which, since the 1980s, has undergone a process of extensive restoration.
At one point in the show we were treated to a Jane Austen fest. A lady who possessed some old looking editions of Jane Austen novels appeared. She owned rather tatty copies of Pride and Prejudice,Mansfield Park and Emma. She wanted to know if they were first editions and if it was worth having them rebound. She had inherited them from her father who had, in turn, inherited them from a godmother.
They were in pretty poor condition, as they had lived for 25 years in a suitcase in her attic.
However on closer inspection, and in my opinion, the binding shows them to have been originally owned by an earl, looking closely at the coronet on the bindings. An English earl is entitled to wear a coronet which has eight strawberry leaves (four are visible in depictions of it) and eight silver balls (or pearls) around the rim (of which five are visible in depictions).The bindings are also marked with the cypher “A. R.” .
I do hope the owner does some research into the original owner before she replaces the original bindings.
She was assured that they really were first editions and was delighted with this discovery. Some slightly dubious comments were made by the expert about anonymity, as to why Jane Austen didn’t put her name to her works, but I’ll gloss over that. He advised that all three novels( three volumes each, making 9 volumes in all) were worth being rebound, at a probable cost of £1000…
for he estimated their worth at £5000 each, a low estimate he hastened to add. I would say very low, frankly in the current market. But it was lovely to hear that the owner was a Janeite, almost word-perfect on the novels, and she was delighted to realise that she had in her possession, three (THREE!!!) first editions of books written by her favourite author. Good luck to her!
If you are able to access the BBC iPlayer, the programme is availabe to view for the next 6 days, and the item under discussion appeared approximately 40 minutes into the programme.