10 pieces of Jane Austen memorabilia



2016-12-16 15:16:59


Today marks Jane Austen’s 241st birthday.

Let’s celebrate with a look at 10 of her biggest pieces of memorabilia to come to auction.

10. Ring  

As well as belonging to Jane Austen, this ring was briefly owned by American Idol winner Kelly Clarkson.

Image: Jane Austen House Museum

Image: Jane Austen House Museum

Clarkson bought it in an auction for around £152,450 – but had to sell it to Jane Austen’s House Museum in Hampshire after it raised the funds to buy it from her under the UK’s export bar law.

Clarkson is a passionate collector of Jane Austen memorabilia and reportedly owned a replica of the ring already. She was said to be "happy to know that so many Jane Austen fans will get to see" the piece and described it as a “beautiful national treasure”.

9. Portrait

This miniature by portraitist James Andrews is one of the best known images of Jane Austen.

Image: Sotheby

Image: Sotheby's

Despite this, it wasn’t drawn from life. Instead it was based on a sketch by Austen’s sister, Cassandra.

It’s actually set to appear on the new £10 notes the Bank of England plans to issue in 2017, meaning it’s about to become one of the most widely seen portraits in the UK.

It realised an impressive £164,500 ($270,228) at Sotheby’s in 2013.

8. Cup and ball

As a child Jane was apparently extremely good at the cup and ball game – also known as Bilbocatch.

Image: Sotheby

Image: Sotheby's

Her nephew later wrote in a biography: "Jane Austen was successful in everything that she attempted with her fingers…

"Her performances with cup and ball were marvellous.

"The one used at Chawton was an easy one, and she has been known to catch it on the point above an hundred times in succession, till her hand was weary."

Her childhood cup and ball came up for auction in December 2016 but failed to sell.

7. Fireplace back

This Jacobean fireplace back stood in Jane Austen’s former home in Steventon, Oxfordshire.

Image: MG Neely Auctions

Image: MG Neely Auctions

She would have sat around it during her younger years, perhaps looking into the flames and dreaming up stories.

It made $400 at MG Neely Auction on 2012.

6. Letter

In 2014 a letter featuring Jane Austen’s first references to Pride and Prejudice (originally titled First Impressions) went on display at her museum in Devon.

Image: Jane Austen House Museum

Image: Jane Austen House Museum

She writes to her older sister Cassandra: “I do not wonder at your wanting to read first impressions again, so seldom as you have gone through it, & that so long ago.”

It was valued at up to £200,000 ($248,069).

5. Emma (first edition)

Emma is another of Jane Austen’s most celebrated novels.

Image: Bonhams

Image: Bonhams

This rare first edition copy is inscribed to Austen’s governess, Anne Sharp. It achieved £180,000 ($224,761) at Bonhams in 2008 – a record for a first edition of the book.

4. The Watsons manuscript

The Watsons was one of several novels Jane Austen left unfinished when she died.

Image: Sotheby

Image: Sotheby's

Sadly, it was left unfinished. 

But over the years, a number of writers have published their own completions of the novel – including her great-great niece Edith Brown.

The manuscript to the book is Austen’s only known surviving draft. It was offered in a 2011 sale, where it achieved a massive £1m ($1m).

3. Sanditon continuation

While Austen abandoned The Watsons in around 1805, Sanditon was the novel she was working on when she died in 1817.

Image: Sotheby

Image: Sotheby's

This continuation of the novel by one of her nieces, Anna Lefroy sold for £12,500 ($15,841) at Sotheby’s earlier this year. Anna herself gave up on the project and her version has never  been published – although others have.

2. Pride & Prejudice (first edition)

Pride and Prejudice was a massive hit when it was published in 1813.

Image: Christie

Image: Christie's

Austen wrote the book between 1796 and 1797, when she was still a teenager, but was unable to get publishers interested. She reworked it in 1811 and 1812 and sent it off again. This time she was successful.

This rare first edition copy sold for $68,500 at Christie’s in 2012.

1. Signature

While she occasionally inscribed books to friends or family, Austen’s signature remains extremely rare.

Image: Bonhams

Image: Bonhams

This example was clipped from the flyleaf of a book and dates to around 1811 – the time that Cassandra Austen produced her famous sketch of her sister.

It realised $23,750 ($29,503) at Bonhams in 2014. 

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