The Christmas Market is attracting some very interesting auction lots…ones that we ought to be interested in, certainly. As we have seen, there are some wonderful Jane Austen offerings to be had this year, but the one that I really covet is Anne Sharp’s first edition set of “Emma”, published by John Murray, which was presented to her by her friend, the authoress, Jane Austen. This  set first came to my attention in 2008, when Christiaan Jonkers of Jonkers Rare Books bought  the  set for £180,000. *gulp* Then two years later, the BBC reported that it had sold for £325,000.*double gulp*

Now Sothebys are offering the same set for sale in their auction of English Literature, History, Children’s Books and Illustrations to be held in London on the 12th December 2012.

Here is the condition report of Lot 86 from the online catalogue:

12mo, three volumes, first edition, presentation copy inscribed “From the author”in a clerk’s hand within volume one together with ownership signature of Anne Sharp in each volume, half-titles, contemporary half-calf with marbled boards, marbled endpapers, collector’s red morocco box, some light spotting, corners occasionally creased, bindings worn at extremities, some minor loss to calf, some splitting and loss to joints, slight loss to ends of spines, leaves trimmed.

The Catalogue notes record its history..up to a point…

One of twelve presentation copies recorded in the publisher’s archives and presented to Jane Austen’s “excellent kind friend”: the only presentation copy given to a personal friend of the author.

In a letter to the publisher John Murray dated 11 December 1815, Austen noted that she would “subjoin a list of those persons, to whom I must trouble you to forward a Set each, when the Work is out; – all unbound, with From the Authoress, in the first page”. Most of these copies were for members of Austen’s family. David Gilson in his bibliography of Austen lists these presentation copies, based on information in John Murray’s records, as follows:

two to Hans Place, London (presumably for Jane Austen and Henry Austen)
Countess of Morley
Rev. J.S. Clarke (the Prince Regent’s librarian)
J. Leigh Perrot (the author’s uncle)
two for Mrs Austen
Captain Austen (presumed to be Charles Austen)
Rev. J. Austen
H.F. Austen (presumed to be Francis)
Miss Knight (the author’s favourite niece Fanny Knight)
Miss Sharpe [sic]

Anne Sharp (1776-1853) was Fanny-Catherine Knight’s governess at Godmersham in Kent from 1804 to 1806. She resigned due to ill-health and then held a number of subsequent positions as governess and lady’s companion. Deirdre Le Faye notes that by 1823 she was running her own boarding-school for girls in Liverpool (see Jane Austen’s Letters, third edition, 1995, p. 572). She retired in 1841 and died in 1853.

In 1809 Austen wrote to her sister Cassandra Austen that “Miss Sharpe… is born, poor thing! to struggle with Evil…” Four years later Jane wrote to Cassandra that “…I have more of such sweet flattery from Miss Sharp! – She is an excellent kind friend” (which may refer to Anne Sharp’s opinion of Pride and Prejudice). It is known that Anne Sharp thought Mansfield Park “excellent” but she preferred Pride and Prejudice and rated Emma “between the two” (see Jane Austen’s Letters, third edition, 1995, p. 573).

There is one known extant letter from Jane Austen to Anne Sharp, dated 22 May 1817. She is addressed as “my dearest Anne”. After Jane Austen’s death, Cassandra Austen wrote to Anne Sharp on 28 July 1817 sending a “lock of hair you wish for, and I add a pair of clasps which she sometimes wore and a small bodkin which she had had in constant use for more than twenty years”.

“In Miss Sharp she found a truly compatible spirit… Jane took to her at once, and formed a lasting relationship with her… [she occupied] a unique position as the necessary, intelligent friend” (Claire Tomalin, Jane Austen A Life, 2000).

Anne Sharp is known to have visited Chawton on at least two occasions: in June 1815 and in August-September 1820. Deirdre Le Faye notes that James-Edward Austen-Leigh described her as “horridly affected but rather amusing” (see Jane Austen’s Letters, third edition, 1995, p.573)

However, what is interesting to me is the current auction estimate ….which is £150,000-£200,000…and which even I with my rudimentary grasp of maths can deduce  means that someone may be anticipating they might be taking a hit on this set. Or not….it all remains to be seen. I will be watching this one….and reporting back, you can be assured.



Also for sale in the same sale is Lot 87,  a first edition set of Northanger Abbey and Persuasion by Jane Austen, published by John Murray. This also has another interesting connection to Jane Austen. The set is inscribed F C Fowle, and would appear to have been owned by Fulwar-Craven Fowle, the brother of Tom Fowle, who was engaged to Cassandra Austen but he sadly died in the West Indies before they could marry.

The catalogue notes:

It appears that this set was the property of the Revd Fulwar-Craven Fowle (1764-1840). He was a pupil of Rev. George Austen at Steventon between 1778 and 1781. He is occasionally mentioned in Austen’s letters; it appears he participated in a game of vingt-un in 1801 and sent a brace of pheasants in 1815. Fulwar-Craven Fowle’s brother, Thomas (1765-1797) had been engaged to Cassandra Austen in 1792.

Deirdre Le Faye notes that he had “an impatient and rather irascible nature” and “did not bother to read anything of Emma except the first and last chapters, because he had heard it was not interesting” (see Jane Austen’s Letters, 1995, p. 525).

This has a sale estimate of £4000-6000, which is more affordable than Lot 86(well, everything is relative!) but I know which set I would prefer to own. I’ll report back.