First edition: Mansfield Park
Object name: First edition of Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
Object number: CHWJA: JAHB6.1-3
Description: First edition of Mansfield Park by Jane Austen, published in May 1814 by T. Egerton. A three volume set. Drab grey cardboard covers; leather spines with title and volume number. Price 18s.
Context: Mansfield Park was Jane Austen’s third published novel and follows the fate of the young, poor protagonist Fanny Price who, at the age of ten, is sent away from her family to live with her rich aunt and uncle Bertram at their grand estate of Mansfield Park.
Jane drafted the manuscript between 1811 and 1813 at home in Chawton. With Mansfield Park Austen reverted to on-commission publishing, retaining the copyright and the prospect of greater financial return but running the risk of losing money if the book did not sell well.
The novel appeared in May 1814, in a possible edition of 1250 copies. The title page stated it was ‘By the Author of Sense & Sensibility and Pride & Prejudice.’ The first print run sold out within six months, making a profit of at least £320, the greatest profit from any edition of Jane’s books published in her lifetime.
In between the publication of the first and second editions of Mansfield Park, Jane changed her publisher from Thomas Egerton to John Murray. Egerton had refused (wisely as it turned out) to print a second edition of Mansfield Park which may have precipitated the change. The second edition did not sell well, the losses amounting to around £182 which Murray offset against the profits of £221 from the first edition of Emma, leaving Jane with just under £39 for her efforts.
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