Bodleian Library seals first Jane Austen manuscript at hotly-contested auction

By Culture24 Reporter | 27 July 2011
A photo of a manuscript in black ink on mottled paper
The Watsons was never published© By permission of the Jane Austen's Fiction Manuscripts Digital Edition
A draft manuscript of Jane Austen’s embryonic draft for her first novel has been won at auction by Oxford University’s Bodleian Library in a deal costing more than £1 million.

Austen’s unfinished The Watsons tale is covered with ideas, revisions and scribblings in one of the earliest surviving examples of an English novel.

Bolstered by a £900,000 pledge from the National Heritage Memorial Fund, the book will allow the library to unite all of her handwritten efforts for the first time since they were dispered by her sister, Cassandra, in 1845.

“The manuscript is such a valuable part of our literary heritage and we are glad it will stay now in Britain,” said Deputy Librarian Richard Ovenden, calling it “priceless”.

“We will make the manuscript available to the general public who can come and see it as early as this autumn.”

Carole Souter, the head of the Memorial Fund, said the alliance had faced “intense, worldwide competition” to buy the work.

“'This was an unprecedented opportunity to acquire the earliest surviving original draft of a novel by one of our greatest and most popular writers,” she added.

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