AUSTEN (JANE) Signature ("Jane Austen"), January 1811
Lot 65
AUSTEN (JANE)
Signature ("Jane Austen"), January 1811
Sold for £23,750 (US$ 38,067) inc. premium

Lot Details
AUSTEN (JANE)
Signature ("Jane Austen"), dated below in her hand "Jan.y 1811. --" (with superscript 'y'), written on a rectangular piece of sized paper clipped from a larger sheet, c.60 x 70mm., January 1811

Footnotes

  • AUTOGRAPH SIGNATURE OF JANE AUSTEN, WRITTEN DURING THE WEEKS THAT SAW HER FIRST NOVEL, SENSE AND SENSIBILITY, GO TO PRESS, so setting her onto the path of becoming a published author; even though she had to wait until the end of the year to see the printed book itself: 'though the novel duly went to press in January 1811, the printers proceeded slowly for much of the year. Sense and Sensibility was eventually advertised from 30 October 1811 in The Star, and on 31 October in the Morning Chronicle. Published in three volumes and priced at 15s., it probably had a print run of 1000 or fewer. It was also anonymous, with the attribution on the title-page "By a Lady". Still the first edition sold out, and brought Austen "140 beside the copyright". It was reviewed favourably in the Critical Review in February 1812 and in the British Critic in May' (Marilyn Butler, ODNB). Deirdre Le Faye opts for the early months of the year for the time of the book's going to press rather than specifying January itself (A Chronology of Jane Austen and Her Family, 2006, p. 395).

    This signature is also roughly contemporary with Cassandra's sketch of her sister Jane, the only likeness known (apart from a back view drawn earlier in Wales): 'Jane is believed to have sat for Cassandra about 1810 or 1811, and around June 1811 there was evidently talk of portraits in her home... [Her brother] James's wife had just had her portrait taken and shown to the Chawtonians... Cassandra in drawing may have risen to the challenge this June. Her sketch, at any rate, shows a woman of about thirty-five' (Park Hogan, Jane Austen: Her Life, 1989 edition, p. 291).

    Nevertheless, very little information survives from this period of Jane Austen's life; there being no known letters between 26 July 1809 and 18-20 April 1811 (see Jane Austen's Letters, edited by Deirdre Le Faye, fourth edition, 2011). In the second letter to survive after this interval, dated 25 April 1811, she was to assure Cassandra: 'No indeed, I am never too busy to think of S&S. I can no more forget it, then a mother can forget her sucking child; & I am much obliged to you for your enquiries. I have had to sheets to correct, but the last only brings us to W.s first appearance... Henry does not neglect it, he has hurried the Printer, & says he will see him again today' (Letter 71, p. 190).

    From the paper, and the manner of signing and dating, it seems pretty clear that our signature was clipped from the flyleaf of a book, of which about twenty once in her possession are known to have survived (see David Gilson, Jane Austen: A Bibliography, 1997). While there can be no doubting from the handwriting that it is her signature – at least one book originally thought to have been hers can in fact be identified as belonging to another Jane Austen – it can be confirmed that the manner in which she has contracted the month 'January' is consistent with her writing habits. This can be checked against the full facsimile record of her letters provided by Jo Modert, Jane Austen's Manuscript Letters in Facsimile (1990). Up until 1805 she used the 'Jan.ry' contraction. For examples of this see her letters of 8 Jan.ry 1799; 3 Jan.ry 1801; 8 Jan.ry 1801; 14 Jan.ry [1801]; 21 Jan.ry 1801; 21 Jan.ry 1805; 22 Jan.ry [1805]; and 29 Jan.ry [1805]. From at least 1809 she favoured the 'Jan.y' form, as used here; see her letters of 10 Jan.y [1809]; 17 Jan.y 1809; 24 Jan.y 1809; 30 Jan.y 1809; 24 Jan.y [1813]; 24 Jan.y [1813]; and 29 Jan.y 1813. She was later to favour the 'Jan:' contraction; see her letter of 23 Jan: 1817.
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