The Hidden Fortune of Rare Jane Austen Books

 A set of five first-edition Jane Austen novels could sell for more than £100,000 at auction.

The books were bought by a UK-based private collector in the 1970s and 1980s for about £5,000.

They are now due to be sold at auction in Gloucestershire by the daughter of the collector. The rarest of the five books is Sense and Sensibility as fewer than 1,000 were printed when it was first published anonymously in 1811.

Chris Albury, auctioneer and senior valuer at Dominic Winter Auctions in Cirencester, said: “The current owner remembers her mother being particularly anxious one time after she had bought one of the books for £2,000 and told her husband to cancel the cheque that night.

“He wisely, in a long-term investment sense, said no. “She was a great fan of Jane Austen but these were the only rare books she ever bought and they would be brought out every now and then, treated carefully by the family, and then put back in the bookcase.

“We estimate she would have paid no more than £5,000 for all of these back then and they are now expected to fetch over £100,000.

“The daughter has had these for many years now and has decided to sell them through auction and let others get the pleasure from them and use the money for new projects and plans.” Also being sold is a copy of Pride and Prejudice, which was published in 1813 in an edition of approximately 1,500 copies.

Mansfield Park was released the following year and Emma was published in 1816 – each in editions of 1,250 copies.

Finally, published a year after Austen’s death in 1817, came Northanger Abbey and Persuasion in a run of 1,750 copies. “The first four were published in triple decker format, three-volume sets that became standard practice for novels put out by British publishers in the 19th Century – cleverly forcing the new breed of fiction readers to pay for each novel three times,” Mr Albury said.

He said first copies of Pride and Prejudice were the most sought-after by collectors, while Sense and Sensibility was valuable because of its rarity.

Mr Albury said interest in the auction, on 15 December, had come from transatlantic book dealers and “seasoned Austen collectors looking to fill gaps in their collections”.