Three volume 1816 first edition of Emma by Jane Austen, belonged to Francis Austen
Museum Number: CHWJA:JAHB3.1-3
Volunteer Steward, Jane Austen’s House Museum
Emma, Jane Austen’s fourth published novel, is concerned with marriage, social status, secrets and mistaken judgements. Emma is rich and decides to match make for her friends and acquaintances. It does not help that she is motherless and her father is a self-centred hypochondriac. She is saved by the friendship and love of her friend Mr Knightley and Emma finally realises that she loves him and cannot live without him.
This is also a beautifully constructed detective novel. Emma fails to see that Harriet and Mr Martin are made for each other, that the socially ambitious Mr Elton wants to marry her and not Harriet, that Jane and Frank Churchill have a secret relationship and, most importantly, that Mr Knightley is in love with her.
Although Emma was ready in March 1815, Austen’s publisher Thomas Egerton delayed publishing so Henry Austen negotiated with John Murray, a very successful publisher. Murray offered only £450 for the copyrights of Emma, Mansfield Park, which was ready for a second printing, and Sense and Sensibility. They agreed that Jane should publish at her own expense and Murray would receive 10% of the profit and the publication of Emma was finally announced in The Morning Chronicle on 23rd December 1815.
Henry’s physician introduced him to the Prince Regent’s librarian, James Stanier Clarke, who told her that the Prince Regent had copies of all her novels in his residences. He invited her to dedicate Emma to him. Although Jane disliked the Prince Regent, she felt that she had little choice but to obey. John Murray, pleased that more copies would be sold, printed 2,000.
Jane had 12 copies of the first edition to give to family and friends. This is the copy of her brother, Francis, which he took to sea with him and read many times.