First edition: Northanger Abbey and Persuasion

Object name: Northanger Abbey and Persuasion first edition

Object number: CHWJA:JAHB13.5.1 – 4

Category: Books

Description: First edition of Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, in four volumes. Published by John Murray in 1818. Brown leather binding, with black and maroon banded spine.

Made: December 1817 (publication is commonly stated as 1818)

Context: Northanger Abbey and Persuasion were published posthumously in December 1817, six months after Jane’s death.

Jane Austen first drafted Northanger Abbey in Steventon, possibly as early as 1794, and completed it in 1798-1799, at which time it was called Susan. In 1803, Henry negotiated via his lawyer to sell the manuscript to London and Bath booksellers Crosby & Co for £10, on the understanding that it would be published soon. However, this did not happen. In 1809 Jane wrote to them directly, under a pseudonym, asking for the novel to be published, but Crosby maintained that he held the copyright and that she had no legal right to publish elsewhere. Eventually, in 1816, Henry bought the manuscript back for the original price of £10. Jane made some revisions to the novel in 1816-1817, changing the name of the heroine and the working title to Catherine, since another novel called Susan had been published in 1809.

The work was renamed Northanger Abbey and publication arranged after Jane’s death in a four-volume set with Persuasion. Northanger Abbey took up the first two volumes.

Jane wrote Persuasion in 1815-1816, at home in Chawton. It was the last of her novels to be completed before her death in 1817. According to family tradition she referred to it as The Elliots, although when Henry arranged for publication after his sister’s death, it was called Persuasion.

Northanger Abbey and Persuasion were published by John Murray in December 1817, as a four-volume set. For the first time, a biographical notice, attached to the first volume in the set and written by Henry Austen, named Jane Austen as the author of her works. The family kept the copyright.  The first edition, which may have consisted of around 1750 copies, sold rapidly.  Total profit on the work has been estimated at more than £500.

These volumes are from the Godmersham Park set, which belonged to Jane Austen’s brother Edward Knight. They were inherited by his son, also Edward, who gave them to his sister Marianne Knight in 1858 – probably for her birthday. The whole set is bound in brown leather, with black and maroon banded spine. This would not have been the original binding – it is most likely they were rebound as a set in 1858, when they were presented to Marianne.

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