A Jane Austen manuscript sold for $ 1.6 million at Sotheby’s. It was the earliest surviving handwritten manuscript of an unfinished novel by the author.
The novel titled The Watsons was purchased by the Bodleian Library in Oxford. Auction house Sotheby's had originally valued the unfinished novel around $ 400,000.
The novel is about a young woman who comes home after being raised in the household of her wealthy aunt. It was written in 1804.
Richard Ovenden, from Bodleian Libraries, told BBC that they were delighted to have secured such a valuable part of our literary heritage
We are glad it will stay now in Britain, he added, saying the priceless manuscript would be made available to the general public as early as this autumn.”
Sotheby's specialist Gabriel Heaton said the work was particularly informative because it is very much a working draft.
The bidding for the manuscript was fierce with interests from all over the world. Bodleian managed to up the bid with the help of a grant from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and contributions from the Friends of the National Libraries, the Friends of the Bodleian and the Jane Austen Memorial Trust.
The bidder which lost out was the Morgan Library in New York.
The 68 pages, hand-cut and bound into 11 small booklets by the author, are thought to be a quarter of the original length. A further dozen pages, sold to raise money for the Red Cross during the first world war, are at the Pierpont Morgan Library in New York, and some others were lost from the library of Queen Mary, University of London about six years ago, reports The Guardian.
The only other originals that survive are some discarded chapters of Persuasion and an unpublished novel, Lady Susan.
Virginia Woolfe once very famously said “of all great writers, she is the most difficult to catch in the act of greatness,” maybe a hand drafted manuscript will allow us to catch a glimpse into that process.
Every page is littered with crossings out, revisions and additional text between some of the lines. Gems of Austen's wit and ironic observations can be seen in one of the sidelines : Female economy will do a great deal, my lord, but it cannot turn a small income into a large one.
Jane Austen’s six full novels were published including Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Emma, Mansfield Park, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion. The last two were published posthumously. She died in 1818 at the age of 41.