'Jane Austen' portrait album to be auctioned

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An album containing a portrait believed to be one of only four surviving of author Jane Austen, is going under the auctioneer's hammer.

The book, owned by Kent sculptor Simon Wheeler, was found by his father in a bookshop in Canterbury in the 1950s.

It contains 47 watercolours and drawings by James Stanier Clarke, librarian to the Prince Regent, who is known to have met Austen in 1815.

The book is expected to fetch between £30,000 and £50,000 at Christie's.

Clarke met Austen when he showed her round the Prince Regent's London home, Carlton House on 13 November 1815.

'Stumbled across book'

Mr Wheeler's father Richard studied the portrait in the album and became convinced it was the author of Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility.

"He used to revel in the fact that he was just casually looking through a bookshop and stumbled across this item," Simon Wheeler said.

"He realised it was interesting but he didn't know what it was so he was just keen to buy it, investigate it and read it for his own interest."

Christie's expert Thomas Venning said analysis of the facial features had been carried out by experts.

"There are computer facial efits comparing the features of this portrait, the two that are accepted, and the third one that is also one of the close runners and they fit," he said.

The book, being sold on Wednesday, also contains other portraits, landscapes and maritime scenes.

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