Most expensive Jane Austen novel sells for £375,000

An inscribed copy of a Jane Austen novel has become the most expensive of the author’s works ever sold after being bought for £375,000 and will go on public display in the UK for the first time.

The unique first edition of Emma – which carries the handwritten message “from the author” – achieved the highest sale price for any printed work by the novelist.

The three-volume edition has been deposited at Chawton House, Hampshire, the former home of the author’s brother, Edward, now a research institution specialising in women’s writing, after its American buyer insisted it stay in the UK.

Peter Harrington, the London rare book dealers, said it was the only presentation copy of an Austen novel with a written inscription known to exist. As was the custom, the book is inscribed by the publisher rather than Austen herself and was presented to her friend Anne Sharp, who was governess to Edward’s children.

Pom Harrington, the owner of Peter Harrington, said: “The buyer of this unique copy of Austen’s Emma expressed his wish for the work to stay in England.

“We immediately thought of Chawton House – given its connections to both Austen and her brother Edward. Chawton House’s support of early women’s literature made it the perfect choice, as Sharp served as confidante, cheerleader and sometime critic of Austen’s works.

“She was part of the intimate circle among whom Jane circulated copies of her novels and recorded their responses. Jane took Anne’s reactions to her novels seriously, asking her to be ‘perfectly honest’ in her assessments, and noted her comments in her logbook.”

The 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.”

Katie Childs, the chief executive of Chawton House, said: “We’re delighted such a significant work of Jane Austen’s will take its place amongst the literary treasures in our collection.”

The book is due to go on display at Chawton House early next year.