Jane Austin's Emma

The 1816 presentation copy of Emma by Jane Austin. Twelve presentation copies were made by the publisher John Murray with a 13th sent to the Prince Regent. Published in 1815, Emma was the last of Austen's novels to be published during her lifetime.

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Harrington sold the books, a three-volume presentation copy of the first edition of Emma, to a US client earlier this summer after it was part of the dealership’s summer catalogue.

Austen sent one of 12 special presentation copies of the novel to her friend Anne Sharp who was governess to her brother Edward’s children.

The copy carries the handwritten message 'From the author', the only presentation copy of an Austen novel with a written inscription known to exist. However the inscriptions were by the publisher or a clerk, at the request of Austen, not in her own hand.

Harrington sold it for £375,000. However, the buyer decided the books should stay in the UK and asked Pom Harrington, owner of London dealership Peter Harrington, to suggest a suitable place for it to go on loan.

Discussions began with Chawton House near Alton, Hampshire, which is open to the public and promotes research and understanding of early women writers, and the books were delivered last week.

Peter Harrington is sponsoring a specially made case for the books.

Chawton House staff

Chawton House staff received the first edition of Emma. The volumes will go on display next year.

Pom Harrington added: “We immediately thought of Chawton House – given its connections to both Austen and her brother Edward, as Anne Sharp served as governess to his children.”

Curator of Chawton House Emma Yandle said: “When we heard the book had been sold we were worried it was going to disappear to America.”

The book will be on display from early next year to coincide with Chawton House’s 20th anniversary celebrations.