Rare Jane Austen manuscript sells for £993,250

 

Every page is littered with crossings out, revisions and additional text

There was a very real possibility of Jane Austen's rare manuscript being sold to a foreign buyer who might well have then taken it abroad.

And because the manuscript had been in Britain for less the 50 years there would have been no recourse to the Export Licensing Committee to stop that from happening.

I was in the auction room watching the tense sales process take place.

By the time it had come down to a two-horse race we were left with one bidder in the room and one on the telephone.

The Sotheby's member of staff on the telephone was not speaking English. But it was the man in the room who won when the hammer came down on his bid of £850,000 (£993,250 after sales tax).

When asked on whose behalf he had bought the manuscript all he would reply was "an institution".

That could quite easily have been the Morgan Library in New York which already owns an eight-page element of the manuscript.

But as I found out, it was in fact The Bodelian Libraries in Oxford who acquired the unfinished novel, with the help of a substantial grant from the National Heritage Memorial Fund (£894,700).

Judging by the size of the grant their success was a close run thing - many more leaps of £20,000 in the bids being invited by the auctioneer and it would seem that they might have been out of the running.

 
Will Gompertz, Arts editor Article written by Will Gompertz Will Gompertz Arts editor

Comments

This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
 
 
 

Features

  • NS Savannah, 1962Nuclear dream

    The ship that totally failed to change the world


  • Ed Miliband takes a selfie at a Cambridge hairdressersNo more photo ops?

    Why is Ed Miliband drawing attention to his public image?


  • Espresso cup7 days quiz

    Which city serves the strongest cup of coffee?


  • Glasgow 2014 quaichs and medalsQuaich guide

    What do the Scottish gifts given to Games medallists symbolise?


  • Malaysian plane wreckage in UkraineFlight risk

    How odd is it for three planes to crash in eight days?


BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.