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Jane Austen – First Edition Books: Identification Guide

Jane Austen
Jane Austen

Jane Austen (December 1775 – 1817) was an English novelist known primarily for her six major novels, which interpret, critique and comment upon the British landed gentry at the end of the 18th century. Austen’s plots often explore the dependence of women on marriage in the pursuit of favourable social standing and economic security. Her works critique the novels of sensibility of the second half of the 18th century and are part of the transition to 19th-century literary realism. Her use of biting irony, along with her realism, humour, and social commentary, have long earned her acclaim among critics, scholars, and popular audiences alike.

With the publication of Sense and Sensibility (1811), Pride and Prejudice (1813), Mansfield Park (1814) and Emma (1816), she achieved success as a published writer. She wrote two other novels, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, both published posthumously in 1818, and began another, eventually titled Sanditon, but died before its completion. She also left behind three volumes of juvenile writings in manuscript, the short epistolary novel Lady Susan, and another unfinished novel, The Watsons. Her six full-length novels have rarely been out of print, although they were published anonymously and brought her moderate success and little fame during her lifetime.

Like many women authors at the time, Austen published her books anonymously. At the time, the ideal roles for a woman were as wife and mother, and writing for women was regarded at best as a secondary form of activity; a woman who wished to be a full-time writer was felt to be degrading her femininity, so books by women were usually published anonymously in order to maintain the conceit that the female writer was only publishing as a sort of part-time job, and was not seeking to become a “literary lioness” (i.e a celebrity).

During her time at Chawton, Jane Austen published four generally well-received novels. Through her brother Henry, the publisher Thomas Egerton agreed to publish Sense and Sensibility, which, like all of Jane Austen’s novels except Pride and Prejudice, was published “on commission”, that is, at the author’s financial risk. Sense and Sensibility appeared in October 1811, and was described as being written “By a Lady”. As it was sold on commission, Egerton used expensive paper and set the price at 15 shillings.

Reviews were favourable and the novel became fashionable among young aristocratic opinion-makers; the edition sold out by mid-1813. Austen’s novels were published in larger editions than was normal for this period. The small size of the novel-reading public and the large costs associated with hand production (particularly the cost of handmade paper) meant that most novels were published in editions of 500 copies or less to reduce the risks to the publisher and the novelist. Even some of the most successful titles during this period were issued in editions of not more than 750 or 800 copies and later reprinted if demand continued. Austen’s novels were published in larger editions, ranging from about 750 copies of Sense and Sensibility to about 2,000 copies of Emma.

In mid-1815 Austen moved her work from Egerton to John Murray, a better known London publisher, who published Emma in December 1815 and a second edition of Mansfield Park in February 1816. Emma sold well, but the new edition of Mansfield Park did poorly, and this failure offset most of the income from Emma. These were the last of Austen’s novels to be published during her lifetime.

Jane Austen – First Editions Identification Guide

How to Identify First Edition books by Jane Austen
YearTitlePublisherFirst edition/printing identification points
1811Sense and SensibilityLondon:T. Egerton, Whitehall, 1811Three volumes. Blue-grey paper boards, white or cream or grey-green paper spines, pink or white paper labels. Wove paper, watermarks IS/1810 or 1808 without initial.
On p.23 of Vol. 1 the right hand parenthesis of the page number is missing in some copies); catchwords: used throughout. The word CHAPTER as catchword is generally in the abbreviated form CHAP-, but in Vol. 1 it is found in full on pp.12, 53, 71, 81, 121, 174 and 234. The catchword on p.3 of Vol.3 is not repeated at the beginning of the text on p.4; the catchwords on p.313 of Vol. 1 and p.208 of Vol.3 end with a comma and a hyphen respectively, but these latter are not repeated at the beginning of the text on the following pages;
Chapter headings: Vol.1 has 22 chapters, Vol.2 has 14 and Vol.3 has 14; each chapter starts a new page. Chapter 1 of Vol. 1 is headed SENSE & SENSIBILITY, [open caps] | [short swell rule 22 mm.] | CHAPTER I., while subsequent chapters have merely the chapter number, as CHAPTER II. Chapter 22 is wrongly numbered XX. In Vol.2 Chapter 1 is headed as in Vol. 1, but the short swell rule measures 25 mm.; the same is true of Vol.3. In Vols.2 and 3 the later chapters are numbered as in Vol. 1, without errors chapter endings: the chapters normally end with a short thin-thick rule, varying greatly in length, but this is omitted when the text at the end of the chapter comes near to the foot of the page (Vol. 1, Chapters 2, 11, 13, pp.26, 132, 162; Vol.2, Chapters 9, 10, 11, pp.176, 195, 217; Vol.3, Chapters 7, 10, 11, 12, pp. 146, 223, 241, 251). The final chapters have END OF VOL.L END OF VOL.II. and FINIS, respectively.
ALSO: Printed for T. Egerton, 1813. Second edition. Blue-grey paper boards, cream or grey-brown paper spines, pink paper labels. "Second edition" stated on the tile page. Wove paper, watermarked AP/1811 or 1812.
In Vol. 1 the word CHAPTER as catchword generally appears as CHAP-, but is given in full on pp.12, 70, 79, 88, 118, 157, 168, 187 and 215; it appears uniformly as CHAP- in Vol.2 (except for p.255 where it appears in at least one copy as CHAP), and also in Vol.3 (except for pp.52 and 245 of Vol.3 where it is given in full)
Chapter headings: as above, Vol. 1 has 22 chapters, Vol.2 has 14 and Vol.3 has 14; each chapter starts a new page. Chapter 1 of Vol.l is headed SENSE & SENSIBILITY, [open caps] | [short swell rule approximately 20 mm.] | CHAPTER I., while subsequent chapters have merely the chapter number, as CHAPTER II. As in Al, Chapter 22 of Vol.l is wrongly numbered XX. Chapter headings in Vols.2 and 3 are as in first edition; chapter endings-, the chapters normally end with a short thin-thick rule, varying greatly in length, but this is omitted when the text at the end of the chapter comes near to the foot of the page (Vol. 1, Chapters 2, 7, 8, 16, 20, pp.26, 79 (extra line of text), 88, 202, 265; Vol.2, Chapters 9, 10, 11, pp.176, 195, 217 (extra line of text); Vol.3, Chapter 5, p.104). The final chapters have END OF VOL.L END OF VOL.II. and FINIS; respectively.
1813Pride and PrejudiceLondon: Printed for T. Egerton, 1813Three volumes. Blue-grey paper boards, white paper spines (generally faded to buff), white paper printed spine labels. Wove paper, most sheets watermarked 1808, a few 1812, and, in the third volume, an indistinct undated monogram watermark (on paper differing slightly in quality).
In Vol. 1 the word CHAPTER as catchword appears as CHAP- (and the catchword on p.219 is not repeated on p.220); in Vol.2 catchwords are missing from pp.26, 67, 70, 76 and 235, and CHAPTER as catchword appears again generally as CHAP- (but as CHAP, on pp.14, 40 and 187 and as CHAP on p.85); in Vol.3 catchwords are missing from pp.61, 62, 64 and 82, CHAPTER as catchword appears generally as CHAP, (but as CHAPTER on p.34), the first word on p.159 repeats two letters more than the catchword on p.158, and the catchword on p.299 is not repeated on p.300.
Chapter headings: Vol. 1 has 23 chapters, Vol.2 has 19 and Vol.3 has 19; each chapter starts a new page. The first chapter of each volume is headed PRIDE & PREJUDICE, [open caps] [short swell rule, 21, 27 & 26 mm. respectively] CHAPTER I., while later chapters have only the number, as CHAPTER II.; chapter endings: Vol.l has a short thick-thin rule, 20 or 25 mm. at the ends of Chapters 1, 3, 14-16, 19, 21 and 22; no such rules appear in Vols.2 & 3. The final chapters have END OF VOL.I. END OF THE SECOND VOLUME, and FINIS, respectively.
ALSO: London, Printed for T. Egerton, 1813. Second edition. "Second edition" stated on title page. Blue-grey or grey-brown paper boards, pinkish-brown backs, white paper labels. Wove paper, Vol.l with watermark 1812, VoIs. 2 and 3 with 1808 or 1812.
In Vol. 1 the word CHAPTER as catchword is uniformly abbreviated as CHAP-, except on p.169 where it appears as CHAP.; in Vol.2 the word CHAPTER as catchword is uniformly abbreviated as CHAP-, catchwords are missing from pp.70, 72 and 133, and an extra word or words added in the direction line, for example on pp.28, 30, 70 (a complete extra line), 72, 98, 99, 100 and 118, also on 133 (on pp.99 and 100 the additional words are present as in A3, making 24 lines, but the signature and catchword are below this again, whereas in A3 they are on line 24); in Vol.3 the word CHAPTER as catchword is uniformly abbreviated as CHAP-, except on p.303 where it appears as CHAP and on p.314 where it appears as CHAP., catchwords are missing from pp.61, 62 and 75, and the extra half line of text in the direction line appears for example on pp.38, 61, 62, 106, 150, 185, 186, 188, 202, 242, 246, 271, 290 and 296.
ALSO: London, Printed for T. Egerton, 1817. Third Edition. "Third Edition" stated on title page. Blue paper boards, brown paper spines, or overall blue-grey paper boards and spines, pink paper spine labels (generally faded to buff). Wove, watermarks 1815 and 1816.
1814Mansfield ParkLondon: Printed for T. Egerton, 1814Three volumes. Blue-grey paper boards, grey-brown or off-white paper backs, white paper spine labels. Wove, watermark generally 1812 throughout. In some copies sheet N in Vol.3 is watermarked 1811 in bold open numerals (sometimes 811 or 11 only is visible, sometimes nothing).
In Vol.l the catchword is missing on pp.88, 270 and 328; the word CHAPTER as catchword is generally abbreviated to CHAP- (but appears in full on pp.42, 221, 250 and 312 and as CHAP, on pp.19 and 128);pp.l24, 125 and 236 have an extra half line of text in the direction line (the catchword on p. 188 is not repeated on p.189). In Vol.2 the word CHAPTER as catchword generally appears in full (but as CHAP, on pp.27, 65, 168 and 254). In Vol.3 the word CHAPTER as catchword is generally abbreviated to CHAP, (but appears as CHAP- on p.297 and in full on pp.118 and 178); catchwords are missing on pp.50, 138, 236 and 245 (the latter having an extra fragment of text in the direction line) and in some copies also on p.74 (which has an extra half line of text in the direction line, with misprint ‘prfiot’ for ‘profit’); in the Bodleian copy the catchword on p.126 is misprinted ‘coupl’ for ‘couple’, that on p.207 reads ‘Mans-’ for‘“Mans-’, and the p.249 catchword ‘of’ is altered to ‘from’ at the beginning of p.250;
Chapter headings: Vol. 1 has 18 chapters, Vol.2 has 13 and Vol.3 has 17; each chapter starts a new page. In Vols.l and 3 the first chapter is headed MANSFIELD PARK, [open caps] | [short swell rule 27 mm.] | CHAPTER I.; later chapters have merely the numeral, as CHAPTER II. Vol.2 has similar headings, but the short swell rule before Chapter 1 measures 30 mm. In Vol.3 Chapter 14 is numbered XVI. in error; chapter endings: in Vols.l and 3 the chapter endings, apart from the last, are not marked. In Vol.2 a short thick-thin rule, 20 mm., appears at the end of Chapter 3, and short thin-thick rules of varying lengths at the end of Chapters 4-12. The final chapters have END OF VOL.I. END OF THE SECOND VOLUME, and FINIS, respectively.
ALSO: London: Printed for J. Murray, 1816. Second edition. "Second edition" stated on title page. Two bindings, no priority: (A) boards and spine in uniform grey-brown paper. (B) blue-grey boards, grey-green spines. Wove, with watermarks 1815, 1815/2 or 1815/3.
Pagination: in Vol. 1 the left-hand parenthesis on p.12 is missing in some copies; in Vol.2, the left-hand parenthesis on p.47 is wholly or partly missing in some copies; in Vol.3, the page numbers are missing entirely from pp.50, 51 and 70 in a very few copies; Vol.3 shows variant sorts in the pagination. In Vol.l the word CHAPTER as catchword is abbreviated as CHAP-; additional words of text appear in the direction line on p.124; the catchword on p.188 is not repeated on p.189; in some copies the letter ‘s’ in the catchword on p.272 is not upright. In Vol.2 the catchword is missing on p.9 (not all copies seen or reported have been checked for this point); the word CHAPTER as catchword generally appears as CHAP- (but it is in full on p.45 and printed as CHAP, on p. 13 7; the catchword on p.285 is not repeated on p.286). In Vol.3 the word CHAPTER as catchword appears uniformly as CHAP.; some copies have the catchword on p.21 misprinted as ‘dyr’ for ‘dry’, p.56 has a full extra line of text and no catchword, p.138 has no catchword, p.186 lacks the catchword in a few copies, p.236 has no catchword, p.245 has no catchword, but has an extra fragment of text in the direction line, and on p.256 the catchword is in some copies misprinted as ‘CHAB.’ for ‘CHAP.’ Vol.l has 18 chapters, Vol.2 has 13 and Vol.3 has 17; each chapter starts a new page. Chapter 1 of Vol.l is headed MANSFIELD PARK, [bold caps] | [thick-thin rule 18.5 mm.) CHAPTER I.; later chapters have merely the numeral, as CHAPTER II. The first chapters of Vols.2 and 3 are headed similarly, except that the rule is a thin-thick rule, measuring 13.5 mm. in Vol.2 and 18 mm. in Vol.3, and the words MANSFIELD PARK in Vol.3 are set in a slightly larger face;later chapters are as in Vol.l (in Vol.3, as in A6, Chapter 14 is wrongly numbered XVI);
Chapter endings: in Vol.l a short thin-thick rule, generally approximately 25 mm., appears at the end of most chapters, but is omitted when the text at the chapter ending comes near to the foot of the page, as after Chapters 6, 7 and 11, pp,128, 154 and 236; Vol.2 also has thinthick rules, varying in length between 16.5 and 28 mm., omitted after Chapters 1 and 2, pp.27 and 45; Vol.3 has no rules. The final chapters have END OF VOL  I. END OF THE SECOND VOLUME, and FINIS, respectively.
1816EmmaLondon: Printed for T. Egerton, 1816Three volumes. Overall grey-brown paper boards and spine, or blue-grey boards and grey-brown, grey-blue or off-white spine.Wove paper, watermaks 1815, 1815/H, BUDGEN/1815 or J BUNGEN/1815 (the latter more especially in Vols.2 and 3).
In Vol.3 the left-hand parenthesis on p.70 is missing; ; on p.135 the right-hand parenthesis is missing in some copies; p.215 is wrongly numbered ‘515’; on p.310 the left-hand parenthesis is missing in most copies). The word CHAPTER as catchword is generally abbreviated to CHAP-, but appears as CHAP, on Vol.l, p.82 and as CHAP on Vol.l, p.305. The catchword is in most copies missing from Vol.3, p. 153; on p.336 of the same volume, the letter ‘r’ in the catchword is in some copies not upright. Vol.l has 18 chapters, Vol.2 has 18 and Vol.3 has 19; each chapter starts a new page. Chapter 1 of Vol.l is headed EMMA, [bold caps] | [short thin-thick rule 12.5 mm.] | CHAP. I.; later chapters have the numeral only, as CHAPTER II. The first chapters of Vols.2 and 3 are headed similarly (with the thin-thick rules very slightly longer), and later chapters as in Vol.l; in Vol.2 Chapter 11 is wrongly numbered XIII.; chapter endings: most chapters end with a thin-thick rule, varying greatly in length, except in cases where the text at the end of the chapter comes near to the foot of the page (Vol.l, pp.21 and 116; Vol.2, pp.190, 225 and 333); the final chapters have END OF VOL.I. END OF VOL.II. and FINIS.
ALSO: Philadelphia: M. Carey, 1816. First American edition. Three volumes in two. Original binding not known. Wove paper, no watermark. p.102 of Vol.2 is misprinted as 202; chapter headings: the first chapter of each volume is headed EMMA, [as on title] | [ornamental rule, 12.5 mm. in Vol.l, 13 mm. in Vol.2] | CHAP. I.; later chapters have only the numeral, as CHAPTER II. Vol.l has 27 chapters (equivalent to all 18 chapters of the first volume and Chapters 1 to 9 of the second volume of the first London edition), each starting a new page; Vol.2 has 28 chapters (equivalent to Chapters 10 to 18 of the second volume, and all 19 chapters of the third of the London edition). In Vol.2 the headings of Chapters 20 and 23 are misprinted as CHAPTR. XX. and CHAPTR. XXIII.; the first 22 chapters and Chapters 24 and 26 start a new page in each case, while Chapters 23, 25, 27 and 28 start on the same page as the end of the previous chapter in each case; chapter endings: in Vol.l the chapter endings are not marked in any way, except for Chapter 27 which is followed by the words END OF VOL.L; in Vol.2 Chapters 22, 24, 26 and 27 are followed by an ornamental rule, 11 mm., while Chapter 28 is followed by the word FINIS.
1818Northhanger Abbey and PersuationLondon: John Murray, 1818Four volumes. Blue-grey paper boards and offwhite or grey-brown backs, or overall grey-brown boards and backs, white printed labels. Wove paper, watermark AP/1816/2.
Vols.l and 2 (the word CHAPTER as catchword appears uniformly as CHAP-; in Vol.l there are no catchwords on pp.xvi, xix, or xxiv, presumably not called for, the catchwords on pp.190 and 191 are wrong, and the catchword on p.265 of the Bodleian copy is misprinted as ‘eounts’ for ‘counts’; the word ‘and’ before the catchword on p.249 of Vol.2 is wrongly repeated at the beginning of p.250); catchwords are not used in Vols.3 and 4.
1832Mansfield ParkPhiladelphia: Carey & Lea, 1832Two volumes. First American edition. Drab paper boards, purple cloth spines, white paper spine labels. Wove paper, poor quality, no watermark.
Vol. 1 has 24 chapters (equivalent to all of Vol.l and Chapters 1-6 of Vol.2 of the first English edition) and Vol.2 also has 24 chapters (equivalent to Chapters 7-13 of Vol.2 and all of Vol.3 of the first English edition). The first chapter of each volume is headed MANSFIELD PARK, [bold caps] [short rule 24 mm.] | CHAPTER I., while later chapters have only the numeral, as CHAPTER II. In Vol.l Chapters 2, 4, 6-9, 11-14, 16, 18-21 and 24 do not start on a new page; in Vol.2 Chapters 2, 4, 6-13, 15, 17, 19 and 22-24 do not start on a new page.-.
Chapter endings: in Vol.l a short ornamental rule, 14 mm., appears at the end of Chapters 1, 3, 5-8, 10-13, 15, 16-20 and 23, while Chapter 24 has END OF VOL.L; in Vol.2 the ornamental rule appears at the end of Chapters 1, 3, 5-12, 14, 16, 18 and 21-23, while Chapter 24 has THE END.
Note: Some copies have inserted before the title of Vol.l a four-page list, on slightly smaller paper, of ‘New books published by Carey & Lea’.
1832PersuationPhiladelphia: Carey & Lea, 1832Two volumes. First American edition. Drab paper boards, purple cloth spines, white paper spine labels. Wove paper, no watermark.
Vol. 1 has 13 chapters (i.e. all twelve chapters of the first volume of the first English edition, and the first chapter of the second volume) and Vol.2 has 11 chapters (i.e. Chapters 2-12 of the second volume of the first English edition); each chapter starts a new page. The first chapter of each volume is headed PERSUASION. [bold caps] | [short rule 18 mm. (Vol.l), 21.5 mm. (Vol.2)] | CHAPTER I., while later chapters have only the numeral, as CHAPTER II.; chapter endings: there are no rules at the ends of chapters, and the final chapters have END OF VOL.I. and THE END. respectively.
1832Elizabeth Bennett, or Pride and PrejudicePhiladelphia: Carey & Lea, 1832Two volumes. First American edition. "First American from the Third London Edition" stated on title page. Wove paper, of poor quality, no watermark. Drab paper boards, purple cloth spine, white paper spine labels.
Vol. 1 has 33 chapters, Vol.2 has 28 chapters (as the third English edition, 1817, from which the text was taken); in Vol.2 Chapter 23 is mis-numbered as XXIV and Chapter 24 is mis-numbered as XXV; each chapter starts a new page. The first chapter of each volume is headed PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, [bold caps] | [short rule 20 mm.] | CHAPTER I.; later chapters have only the numeral, as CHAPTER II.; chapter endings: there are no rules at ends of chapters. In Vol.l Chapter 33 is followed by the words END OF VOL.L, while Chapter 28 of Vol.2 is followed by the word FINIS. Notes: In some copies Vol.l contains at the end an advertisement supplement of eighteen unsigned, unnumbered leaves of smaller trimmed paper (the text pages being uncut) with rule borders, listing books ‘Just published by Carey and Lea’.
1833Northhanger AbbeyPhiladelphia: Carey & Lea, 1833Two volumes. First American edition. Drab paper boards, purple cloth spines, white paper spine labels. Wove paper, faily thick, no watermark.
Vol.1 has 15 chapters, Vol.2 has 16 chapters (as in the original English edition); each chapter starts a new page. The first chapter of each volume is headed NORTHANGER ABBEY. | [short rule 25.5 mm.] | CHAPTER I.; later chapters have only the numeral, as CHAPTER II.; chapter endings: there are no rules at ends of chapters, and the final chapters have END OF VOL.L and THE END. respectively.
1833Sense and SensibilityPhiladelphia: Carey & Lea, 1833Two volumes. First American edition. Drab paper boards, purple cloth spines, white paper spine label. Wove paper, faily heavy quality, no watermark.
Vol. 1 comprises the whole of the first volume, and the first eight chapters of the second volume of the English original so the printer presumably took CHAPTER VIII. from his English copy Vol.2 has 20 chapters, being Chapters 9-14 of the second volume and the whole of the third volume of the English original; in each volume all chapters start a new page; chapter endings: there are no rules at chapter ends; the final chapters have END OF VOL.I. and THE END. respectively.
1833EmmaPhiladelphia: Carey, Lea & Blanchard, 1833Two volumes. Secondt American edition. Drab paper boards, purple cloth spines, white paper spine labels. Wove paper, of varying quality, no watermark.
Vol.1  has 27 chapters, Vol.2 has 28 chapters; each chapter starts a new page. The first chapter in each volume is headed EMMA. | [ornament 11 mm.] | CHAPTER I.; later chapters have only the numeral, as CHAPTER II.. Most of the chapter headings in Vol.2 seem to be set in a slightly heavier face than those in Vol.l; chapter endings: there are no rules at chapter ends, and the volume endings are not marked in any way.

Reference:

  • Wikipedia
  • David Gilson: A bibliography of Jane Austen.

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