Wuthering Heights (First Edition) by Emily Bronte
Wuthering Heights is the only published novel by Emily Bronte (1818-1848). The first edition of this work was published in 1847 by Thomas Cautley Newby, London, as a three volume set with the third volume being Agnes Grey by Emily’s sister Anne. The first American edition of Wuthering Heights was published in 1848. Background
Emily and her two sisters spent most of their childhood and young adult lives writing together. As literature was by many perceived as a male pursuit, not for women, they published a collection of their poetry under the masculine nom de plumes Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell.
Wuthering Heights was written by Emily between 1845 and 1846. For its setting it took much from Emily’s experience of living in Yorkshire, the stately homes she visited and worked as a governess in there, and most likely the wild moors themselves.
Wuthering Heights was first printed after the success of Emily’s sister Charlotte’s novel Jane Eyre. Tragically, Emily died of tuberculosis just a year later aged 30. A second edition, edited by her sister Charlotte, was published posthumously.
Plot, characters, themes
The book’s setting is a stately home on the Yorkshire moors named Wuthering Heights. The plot centres around a passionate love affair that turns to a deep hatred and bitterness, a love so strong it destroys everything around it. Themes include cruelty and pride, and the nature of inheritance, as traits are passed down, or overcome, by the next generation.
The story is told through several filters, first from the perspective of a man moving to the neighbouring stately home of Thrushcross Grange, then through the perspective of the housekeeper Nelly who has been there from start to finish and witnessed the whole unfolding of events.
Emily Bronte is considered by many to be one of the greatest Victorian novelists, this reputation resting solely on her single novel, the classic Wuthering Heights.
See main articles: Emily Bronte rare books and memorabilia
Notable auction sales and collecting tips
Wuthering Heights was first sold as a three volume set including Anne Bronte’s novel Agnes Grey.
In this three volume fashion it was sold by Sothebys London for £157,250 in December 2011, £163,250 in October 2010, and £241,250 in July 2011.
Christie’s New York sold the same 1847 3 volume set for $216,000 in December 2006, and Bonhams London for £114,000 in November 2007.
First American editions were sold by Christie’s New York for $5,019 in December 2004 and $11,250 in December 2010. The American edition wrongly attributes authorship to Charlotte Bronte, ‘the author of Jane Eyre’.
It is not recommended to restore a first edition, as they are more valuable if they retain their original bindings. However, many times the three volumes will be found rebound in leather.
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