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Episode 62: Jane Austen's Legacy & Rare Book Collecting with Tom Ayling



In this episode, I have the pleasure of being joined by Tom Ayling, an antiquarian bookseller and content creator. Together, we'll dive into Jane Austen's literary craftsmanship and the timeless allure of collecting her works. We'll embark on a journey through Austen's manuscripts, unraveling the mysteries behind her genius and the profound legacy she left with her pen. Furthermore, we'll delve into the significance of hard copies in an author's fame amidst digital records, and navigate the complexities of rare book collecting, sharing personal anecdotes and valuable advice for aspiring collectors. Come join us as we uncover pieces of literary history together.This episode is a beautiful tapestry of history, literature and book keeping.Apologies in advance for the echo on my end, I had to record at my Grandparents as our wifi cut out and the room was all hard surfaces.


Mentions:Jane Austen.ac.uk - Project spearheaded by professor Catherine SunderlandR.W ChapmanJane Austen, The Watsons @ the Bodleian 


Where can you find Tom?@tomwaylingTom Ayling on YouTubehttps://www.tomwayling.co.uk/ 

 

Izzy: 0:19

Hi, janeites, and welcome back to the What the Austen podcast. In this episode, I am joined by Antequarian bookseller and content creator, Tom Ayling. You've probably seen Tom's content online. He shares a lot about collecting rare books, but also a lot of information about the history of literature in general, whether that's referring to manuscripts, first editions or libraries. Tom has such amazing content out there that's super informative, so I thought he would be a fantastic guest to have on to discuss Jayne Austin in particular, because I myself am very keen to collect more Jayne Austin works some earlier copies and I hope some of you listeners are too, so this one is definitely for the budding collectors out there. I know you're going to love this episode and let's get into it. So welcome, tom. It is so wonderful to have you on the podcast today.

Tom: 1:05

Great to be here, Izzy. Thank you so much for having me on.

Izzy: 1:08

Absolutely so. To start with, I'd love to know how did you get into this world? You know collecting old and rare books. Something about it that stands out to me is there such a crossover between literature and history? So I'd love to know what your journey was.

Tom: 1:21

Well, absolutely. I was one of those people, I suppose, who you know, applying for university at age 17 or whatever, loved both English and history and didn't really know what to do about that. You know, there wasn't. It seemed to me a clear way to unite those two passions. But while I was at university I became aware of this amazing world of rare books Through the Special Collections Library.

Tom: 1:48

I was at university in St Andrews and they had amazing Special Collections where you could request books that were hundreds of years old and they bring it to you and you could use them in your research. And this was a total revelation to me. It was absolutely amazing. And also while I was at university, I started bookselling. I worked in a bookshop called Topping Company, who have four amazing bookshops in the UK, and absolutely fell in love with that as well. And at the same time, at a similar time, I also started collecting old books, not particularly rare books to begin with because of the student budget. But that's what really led me into those sort of twin worlds of rare books and bookselling and it sort of meant that it was perfectly natural when I left university to get a job as an antiquarian bookseller.

Izzy: 2:42

That's amazing. I love that. And isn't it incredible when there's worlds kind of lying, you're thinking I love all of this stuff. How do I bring it together? And I agree, uni is difficult to collect kind of older copies. I remember when I was at Uni there was a actually an Oxfam bookshop and they actually used to have some really old copies in there for not so much and that was amazing to me. I was like, oh, he's going through. It's always amazing when you can find something, especially in a charity shop, that you're like this is actually a gem. I'm very excited about this.

Tom: 3:12

Yes, yeah no, it's wonderful and that's part of the serendipity of books and book collecting. It's not a sort of stale perfect market. You can find things in the most curious places and that's part of the great fun of it and why it's such an enjoyable shoot.

Izzy: 3:33

Yes, I love that. I'd also love to know what was your first experience with something Austin related then. Was it a book, Was it a manuscript?

Tom: 3:42

I think it was. I remember very early on, probably a couple of weeks in my first job as an antiquarian bookseller, was with a firm called Yonkers Rare Books in Henley-on-Tent in Oxfordshire and they specialised in English literature and I remember them selling, probably in my first or second week, a beautifully bound set of Austin's work. It would have been a late 19th century or perhaps an early 20th century collected edition in these beautiful brown calf findings, absolutely glistening. And that was the first thing. And then, as I continued to work there and learn more about the fields, you get to experience the thrill of handling a first edition of her work and not just the sort of the historic feeling of that, the very tactile feeling. They're incredibly beautiful objects to handle out with their literary implications, just as they appear in these three beautiful slim volumes with very, very large type, and you sort of flick through a couple of pages of that and fear ever having to read a poorly spaced paper back again.

Izzy: 5:01

No, I love that Absolutely. I've never been lucky enough to kind of handle a first edition or be around any manuscripts, yet it's on there on my bucket list. It will happen for me Absolutely. Yeah, absolutely. So it'd be good to chat about, because I know you do have quite a bit of experience with manuscripts. So it'd be good to chat about the kind of rarity of Austen's manuscripts where you can find them, the rarity of her handwriting in general, because I know a lot of my listeners know there actually isn't that much of her handwriting available because her sister, cassandra, burned so many of her letters. So we actually are limited to what we actually have available to us.

Tom: 5:41

Yeah, absolutely Well. Within my world, the rare book world, the sort of pinnacle the closest you can get to an author in their work is through original manuscripts. And with Jane Austen, though, we have a problem, which is that no original manuscripts survive for any of her completed novels. So, sense and Sensibility, pride and Prejudice, mansfield Park, emma North, anger Abbey and Persuasion we have no finished manuscript. We don't know where they are, we don't know what happened to them, but they don't exist. We do have for Persuasion. In the British Library there are two chapters, the last two chapters of Persuasion in an earlier form that were later discarded, but nothing that was actually published in manuscript form exists. So that leaves us with a massive question about Austen, which is how did she work? How did she operate? What's her creative process? And we've got this.

Tom: 6:54

You know this extraordinary whole, but we do have some surviving fiction manuscripts, and I would really, really urge all of your listeners, after they finish listening to this podcast, to visit JaneAustenacuk, which is the online home of the Jane Austen fiction manuscripts. It's an amazing project. Professor Catherine Sutherland spearheaded it, and there online, you can see every single scrap of paper that is a surviving manuscript of Jane Austen that we know. Surviving fiction manuscript of Jane Austen. And this varies from, you know, little fragments, things like those two discarded chapters of Persuasion, two more complete manuscripts for unpublished stories like Lady Susan, the manuscript of which is in the Morgan Library, and the Watsons, which is slightly curious in that 12 pages of it are in the Morgan Library and the remaining 68 pages are at the Bodleian Library in Oxford.

Izzy: 8:02

It was split.

Tom: 8:04

Yes, yes, they paid a little under a million pounds for it in 2011, with, you know, a lot of support from various bodies. Yes, it's a curious thing that the manuscript was split. The pages of it, the Morgan Library, were given as a gift to someone by Austen's descendants and there was some attempt in, I think, in the 1920s. There's the great early 20th century Austen scholar, rw Chapman, who did have the opportunity to see the manuscript together, as it were, but as far as we're aware, that's the last time they've ever been in one place. But what's?

Izzy: 8:51

How wild is that? Is that common that they'll split people's work?

Tom: 8:56

No, not at all. But you have to remember, I suppose, that part of the reason that the published work doesn't survive and the unpublished work does is because the published work was considered finished when it was sent to the publishers and printed and therefore, as a sort of whole though we'd love those now, that's kind of why we don't have them, whereas the unpublished work being, you know, essentially an unfinished work in progress there is a sort of a bit more of an element to which they're separate parts. It's a shame that they're in two different places in a way, but I suppose it means whether you live in New York or Oxford, you can still see.

Tom: 9:48

Austen manuscripts, but I thought the Watsons would be particularly fun to talk about because that gives us a real insight into how Austen works. When you study this manuscript and, like I say, you can go online and look at every single page of it totally for free. But I was at the Body Library a couple of weeks ago because they were launching a new exhibition, so I got to see the manuscript of the Watsons and we can learn so much about how Austen wrote by looking at it. And the first thing you'll notice, whether you're seeing it online or seeing it in person, is that there's almost no white left on the page. It is almost entirely ink. Margin to margin and top to bottom is totally, totally filled. Whether this was a case of being incredibly economical and using every last inch of page or just how you know how Austen preferred to write, we don't know. But it's incredible. And then when mistakes are made, they're really thickly crossed through, you know, almost painted through with ink. So it's quite incredible things that I've got actually here. The audio listeners are described it to them that here you can see two pages of Austen's manuscript and you can see how literally there is no space on the outside of the page. It really is incredible and that poses a problem if you're a writer, especially a writer in the age of handwriting on novels, which is well. What do you do if you make a mistake or you want to rewrite something?

Tom: 11:32

And Austen had a brilliant way of working which we see both in this manuscript and also in other manuscripts of hers. So it was obviously part of her process. If she made a mistake, there was a passage she wanted to change, she would cross through it in the original and then she would take a separate patch of paper, rewrite the paragraph or passage or sentence and then, in this amazing tactile way, literally pin it on top of the discarded paragraph, which is such a wonderful way of both working, but also for us now to experience the process of her revising the novel. And when you're looking at one of these you know double page spreads with the separate patch of paper it feels like you're standing over Jane Austen's shoulder and watching her rewrite and pin over the top the new passage. And at the Bodleian Library they actually they have the pins still the original pins, so it's extraordinary and I should give a little plug to why I was there.

Tom: 12:48

So I was there because they were launching this amazing new exhibition of literary manuscripts at the Bodleian called Right, cut, rewrite. And if you go, it's free to go, and you can see exactly this happening. You can see the double page spread there with the rejected paragraph on one side and above it the patch of kind of scrap paper that Austen wrote out the revised version of that paragraph and pinned it over the top.

Izzy: 13:19

I love that so much, you, this brings me so much joy because that is actually how I write stuff. I will print stuff up and I will cut out like a new line and stick it on top of stick and paragraph on top so that I can see it. But I can, you know, I don't have to pre print out the whole thing, I can just stick like a one bit for it. So that actually brings me so much joy. Who knew that I'd have so much in common with Austen's writing? Absolutely.

Tom: 13:44

Well, it's wonderful. It's a wonderful thing about studying 19th century authors or early 20th century authors is that we can. We can see this happening when we're looking at the manuscripts. You know, the equivalent today would be somehow accessing someone's hard drive and getting the metadata of every single edit they're making into a, into a Word document, whereas actually you're seeing both the challenge of writing in her time and how she's overcoming it in this amazing patchwork, tactile way. It's an extraordinary thrill. So I'd really recommend that people visit the Bodleian and take the opportunity to go and see that.

Izzy: 14:32

Yeah, that sounds absolutely wonderful and, like you said, you know, because it is so rare. I mean, if you think about the way that she is doing that, where it's like she's sticking on top of me, can you imagine if we had some of her longer works? It would be quite wild. I mean, like all this paper everywhere.

Tom: 14:46

That's exactly right and that's why it's such a shame, because if we had her original manuscripts of the longer work, one assumes we wouldn't just have the handwritten version of what's been printed, we'd also have the passages that were crossed out, the discarded bits. You know where she's adding to it or changing things or changing emphasis, and it shows not just how it's put together, but you know where in the novel she was having difficulty or not quite getting it right and she had to go back to it and maybe back to it again. That's the sort of thing that is, it repays hours and hours of looking at it. So, and it's part of the joy of Catherine Sutherland's project Jane Austen fiction manuscripts that you can go online and go through Lady Susan and the Watsons and the. You know the discarded. You know. If you love persuasion, you can go online and see the. You know the chapters that didn't make it.

Izzy: 15:47

Yeah, the alternative ending. Yeah, I think that's fascinating in itself because there's a lot of people speculate that they feel that persuasion isn't still finished like that. It wasn't exactly what Austen would have, you know, completed had she had the chance to that. It would have still been different again. So I think that's always interesting to consider. And similarly I feel sometimes when I'm reading her juvenileia that there's so much crossover to her finished longer novels and like sometimes when I'm reading it I'm like her juvenileia sometimes feels like first editions of the latest stuff. You like how similar some characters are, the names, similarities. Sometimes you kind of feel like you're reading the first draft of what the claim, like like love and friendship. Sometimes when I'm reading that I'm like kind of feel like I'm reading maybe like a first draft of sense, sensibility or a first draft of what Mary Crawford became you know what I mean.

Tom: 16:36

Yeah, no, absolutely. I mean that's part of the thing when you look at the, because she also dated her manuscripts. So when you look at the composition dates of the of the manuscripts, you can see where you know, in some cases she was writing and beginning these novels 10, 15 years before they, before they were actually published. And then in the case of the, the discarded persuasion chapters, she was actually writing those in the summer of 1816. So only only the year before she she died. So you can see there that that's. That's kind of the opposite thing. That's a very late composition, which would then imply that you've got a very late change if she's then gone and rewritten them.

Izzy: 17:19

Yes, no, absolutely. It's so fascinating to kind of see it broken down like this, and I definitely want to go and see these manuscripts now because I feel like that is such a wonderful experience to have, like to be around it and just yeah, just to see her writing process. But something else that I just want to pick up on quickly that you said that is actually blowing my mind now I think about it the idea that obviously we treasure having these kind of earlier copies of writer's work, but they'll come a point in the future where that just won't be a thing anymore. Like you said, you'd have to go into somebody's hard drive and see all these edits that they made. How many people keep all of their edits if they're writing a book, that's just not something that that happens really.

Tom: 17:59

No, they don't. And it's also not accessible. I mean, one of the things I like to bang the drum about and not just because I'm a, you know, foggy old antiquarian is is that you know, paper has a far better, you know, hard copies have a far better survival rate than soft copies. You know, you, it's sort of easy to think, oh well, if you've got it, if you've got a document version of it, and you upload it to the cloud or you push it on a USB stick, then it's, then it's there forever.

Tom: 18:28

But you know, I have trouble accessing Word documents that are, you know, 10 years old. So imagine trying to, you know, access something that was, you know, say, written in the in the 1990s. You'd have no hope of of recovering that and being able to read it on a on a modern machine. And this is a problem that libraries and archives are having. With digital records. It's incredibly expensive to constantly update so that all of these, you know, digital versions of documents or digitally native documents can remain readable and usable, whereas if you've got a book or you've got a sheet of paper, you can just issue it to someone and they can look at it and they can give it back it's. I mean, there's incredible invention and incredibly efficient.

Izzy: 19:13

Yes, that's so interesting and also it makes you kind of question. I know there's this concept of who will be classics, you know, in the future, based off like people who've written in our time right now. But maybe there's something about people being these like icons in literature is because there's something so tangible that you can associate with them, like there's these physical copies, and so they've got this kind of kind of immortalized issue a little bit in a way. That is maybe not going to be the case in the future.

Tom: 19:42

Yes, I mean, if you were, if you were, I mean I don't really know what the, what the modern equivalent would be, because, you know, I mean, ultimately people, however, they write their novels, they're still, for the most part, getting published in print and therefore there are the, there are going to be these objects that survive them and their careers and, you know, may, in a hundred years time, become, become the sort of trophies of collectors. But you know, I suppose there are sort of totally digitally native forms, like, you know, if you're, if you're a poet who exclusively posts their work on Instagram and then, you know, mark Zuckerberg decides that he wants to get rid of Instagram, then, you know, everything's gone forever. So, you know, sort of it might seem to to the sort of, you know, tech titans of the world that books and publishing is some sort of cottage industry, but it's vital to the, to the sort of information we have about ourselves and our society going forward.

Izzy: 20:41

Right, and I think, for my podcast, that my great great grandchildren will be able to listen to my rumblings about Austin, but they might not be able to. The technology might be so advanced then that they cannot access this.

Tom: 20:53

You'll have to, you have to print out the transcripts and have them bound and stored safely somewhere.

Izzy: 20:58

Oh, I'd see you my rumblings I'll call it. I'll do it in volumes like Austin, because I feel like that's a good thing that we should chat about is the way that Austin's books were initially split into the volumes, but they were actually separate books as opposed to within one book. We just see the volumes laid out. Chat about that and also first editions in general, how many numbers there are available, that kind of thing.

Tom: 21:21

Yeah, no, absolutely so. Jane Austen's novels were published between 1811 and 1817, although her final book, north Anger I'll Be Impostuational it says 1818 on the title page. But that's a little publisher's trick. Where publishers print a book in December, say December 1817, they'll put 1818 on the title page so that six months later it doesn't look out of date. But yes, I mean, one of the things that's really important to understand about literary life in England and the life of a reader in Jane Austen's England is the importance of circulating libraries. We see circulating libraries in Austen's work. They get mentioned in Mansfield Park Fanny Price very excitedly subscribes to one because she can't find anything to read at her father's house. And they're mentioned in sort of derogatory terms by, I think, mr Collins in P&P. He wouldn't want a book from a circulating library because it's likely to be a novel and after all, who would spend their time reading novels? But the thing about circulating libraries and book production is that because libraries were renting books to their customers, they weren't selling books to their customers. It was more efficient to have a book broken down, have a novel broken down into separate volumes. So that's why, you see, sense and Sensibility is one book published in three volumes, the same with Pride and Prejudice and Mansfield Park and Emma. And then you have North Anger Abbey and Persuasion, which are published as one book, published together in four volumes, two volumes each because they're shorter novels. And circulating libraries did this because I mean, I suppose if you're a modern economist you'd call it yield management. It basically means that you could own one copy of a book and rent it to three different people at once, or two copies of a book and rent it to five or six different people at once and the circulating libraries would have. If you were a member of the libraries, you would often have a limit on how many books you could have out at once. You know it might be one volume at a time, it might be two volumes at a time. So it could be the case that you're reading Pride and Prejudice or Sense and Sensibility and you're two thirds of the way through and you have to wait for some other person to return the book before you can actually get to it. And a big part of why these boomed they began in the late 18th century but really boomed circulating libraries in the 19th century and that's because books were expensive to own.

Tom: 24:16

Robert Southey has a great quote writing, and I think, 1809. He says that people who buy books don't read them and people that read them don't buy them, and that books have just become furniture for the rich. And what he means by that, of course, is not that nobody reads books at all, but that the people who are actually readers are renting books. They're not buying them. Books were quite expensive. It might cost a guinea to buy a three volume novel, and for the same price you could get an annual subscription to one of these circulating libraries and read maybe 20 or 30 novels a year. So I suppose a lot we can get into about that and what it meant for Jane Austen's early readers, for example. They'd only be reading these books once. They wouldn't be rereading them because for the majority of her readers they wouldn't be sat on their shelves. They'd be reading it and returning it. The same way as when I was a kid, we went to Blockbusters and rented a video and gave it that.

Izzy: 25:21

Yeah, one pound for five films because of music.

Tom: 25:24

Yeah, I didn't sort of say it. Jane Austen was a sort of great. She profited from the Blockbusters of the 19th century my space, and she actually says it when they were preparing the second edition of Mansfield Park. She says in her correspondence that people are more ready to borrow and praise than to buy, which cannot be wondered at, which is her sort of acknowledging the importance and prevalence and proliferation of these libraries. It's a great deal for libraries, by the way, but not so great for authors, who would much prefer.

Tom: 26:07

Because the flip side of the circulating library is that if, say, her novels were printed in editions of anywhere ranging from, say, 750 to 2,000 copies, but if a thousand copies of a 2000 print run gate were circulating library, that could mean that out of a total edition of 2,000 copies she's got six or 7,000 readers but perhaps only 1,000 or 1,500 books in sales. So it's a totally different way of really experiencing novels to what we know now.

Izzy: 26:46

Yeah, and I suppose you want the exposure because you want your work to be read but at the same time you need money to live. So it's finding that balance, isn't it? I suppose for Austen she never married, she never had that large of an income coming in and she was like I'm married and living with her mom and everything. So if you think about that in that sense it was kind of limiting for her for the fact that it was more circulating libraries. But obviously that's got to get to book out.

Tom: 27:15

But yes, but also the sort of the publishing industry at the time worked in a very different way to how it does now. So if you look at her first novel, sense and Sensibility, looking at the title pages of books can be incredibly instructive. And you look at it and it says Sense and Sensibility Buy a Lady. And then at the bottom it says Printed for the Author by T Edgerton. We can maybe get into the Buy a Lady bit later because there's quite a lot to unpack just from those three sentences. But Printed for the Author essentially means that she wasn't published. She paid Edgerton the expenses in publishing the book, took the receipts from it and then paid him a commission, which is the exact opposite of how a book gets published today, because in modern book publishing a publisher pays for the expenses of publishing your book, takes the sales and gives the author a commission. So it's completely the other way around. This did mean that for sense and sensibility she owns the copyright.

Tom: 28:34

When she came to publish Pride and Prejudice two years later, she did the opposite thing. She sold the publisher the copyright for, I think, £110. She was ground down. She wanted £150 for it but she got £110. And then actually by the time Emma comes around her fourth novel, she switches publisher. She joins John Murray, which changes quite a lot about her work and her career and her literary standing. But that worked in a far more sort of normal publishing sense. But I mean essentially sense and sensibility in modern parlance is a self-published novel using a vanity publisher.

Izzy: 29:22

Yes, that is so fascinating. I never knew that. So I'd love to ask you then about Emma as well, in the sense that she changed publisher. That was dedicated to the Prince Regent, Obviously that wasn't necessarily what Austin wanted, but she did do it in the end. Is that because the publisher had those connections and they said that was the right thing? Or is it that the Prince Regent was reading all of Jane Austen's books, had copies, wasn't using a circulating library?

Tom: 29:48

Yes, the Prince Regent was a fan of Austen's work and actually Austen received an invitation from the Prince Regent's librarian to go to their library and that is the sort of the circumstances that precipitated the dedication of the Prince Regent. If we want to get really book nerdy about it, there was a debate that Austen had about how to send the book to the Prince Regent because it's dedicated to them and therefore they traditionally would receive what we call in the book trade the dedication copy, which is the copy that you give to the Dedicatee. And it is sort of the height of collecting printed books. It's sort of about as good a copy of a book you can get is the dedication copy of it. And what's interesting is that, as you say, austen wasn't exactly thrilled by the Prince Regent and failed to kind of grudging obligation to dedicate the book to them. So she says in one of her letters that they're dedicating it to him, but I'm not sure I'll put it in a binding. Which is to say she intended to send the book in the original format it was published in, which is in boards, not a binding.

Tom: 31:05

Now this means that I've got an example alas, not Jane Austen first edition that I can share you and describe to your audio listeners. But this is what original publishers boards in the 19th century would have looked like. You have a very simple, unadorned spine that is covered in paper and then you literally have sort of paper covered essentially cardboard would be the way we would describe, we would relate to it. And this is an incredibly flimsy binding. It's very temporary.

Tom: 31:37

You can see here an example that is slightly close. So this is about a decade before Austen's time and these do not wear very well. If I turn the book like this and describe for your audio listeners, you can see up here just how thin the material is. So Jane Austen's novels one rarely survive in their original binding. And two, if she said the Prince Regent a copy in the paper covered boards, it would be a bit of an insult and say the publishers, actually John Murray, paid to have. I think they paid 25 shillings, 24 or 25 shillings to have it bound in three volumes of polished red leather.

Izzy: 32:24

So it's a bit grander I love that for Austen, that she cracks me up with stuff like this. Honestly, everyone's always like isn't it sad that her letters were burnt? But sometimes I think that might be a blessing, because God knows what was in the six letters. I want to ask then, just looking at that one so I have is this similar then, like this kind of copy with like with like ruggedy edges.

Tom: 32:48

Well, yes, absolutely, so that that looks to me like it was. Was that printed in the sort of 1890s or early 20th century?

Izzy: 32:56

I think it was. I want to say 1950s, if I remember rightly, yeah.

Tom: 33:01

Yeah, that is sort of imitating this, this early binding style.

Izzy: 33:06

Yeah.

Tom: 33:07

And and the what you see there there's. There's a few things to unpack about that, but one of the things you'll see in in 20th century books that is a bit sort of inachronistic is where they have the, the decalde edges. In Austen's day that's just naturally what paper looks like. So you look at the edge of it like this and you can see that all the pages are in trim. And if you look at it from that angle you can see that actually some of the pages are sticking out from the binding itself, which is slightly weird. And that's because, again, this is a temporary binding for the most part that that a circulating library would definitely put in a different binding because that would fall apart. You know, if you let it to, too many people and the sort of wealthier private customer would want to have, you know, for the most part want to have rebound in leather again to help with its preservation, help it stand up to reading and and rereading or just to look smart on the bookshelf.

Izzy: 34:10

Yeah, look good on the bookshelf.

Tom: 34:12

But what happens when you, when a binder, would rebind the book, is that in order to get the the book to fit the binding they're putting on it, they would trim the page edges. So you would go from having these beautiful untrimmed edges to having sort of very uniform trimmed edges. So you would end up perhaps with a book that looks a bit more like this and you can see that the edges there are very, very defined. So, yes, I mean, that's that's the sort of binding format, that that these books came in and they're still water, water sort of prized above rubies by by book collectors are to get these books in their original formats. That would be, in terms of looking at the binding of Austin's novels, the most sought after and certainly most expensive in those plain unadorned boards, because there you're really getting back to what these objects look like on publication day.

Tom: 35:12

I suppose second place to that would be in one of these contemporary bindings, so the sort of binding that one of the first readers of Austin's novels might have, might have put on it, and these can also be be very attractive in their way and not necessarily very hardy.

Tom: 35:30

They might not be full leather bindings, which would be something like this, where the whole thing is leather, but they might be quarter or half leather bindings. So a quarter binding would be where you have a leather spy and then the exposed boards, and a half leather binding you would have leather coverings on the corners also. So they're the sort of different ways you can preserve the book through rebinding. And then, of course, if one can't have an original binding or a contemporary binding, you you may have to settle for a, for a later binding, which, considering how few of Austin's novels are out there in first edition and what has happened to the majority of them since, that's just where you encounter most copies, because it's very difficult for a book to survive in an original binding because of its flimsiness, or even in an early binding, because these were also not particularly hard wearing necessarily.

Izzy: 36:26

So in terms of first editions, then I've read online that there's like 1500 in circulation. Is that back then or is that now?

Tom: 36:36

So. So back then. We don't have exact publication numbers for her first three novels because they are published by Thomas Edgerton, but bibliographers, which is to say people that study the history of the book, have made some calculations. Based on some of the financial information we have access to, you can sort of work out what the print run might be. So sense and sensibility was probably 750 to 1000 copies in total, and Mansell Park was sorry. Pratt Pena, which comes next, was perhaps 1500 around that. Mansell Park, we think, was a little bit less 1250 copies.

Tom: 37:13

And John Murray, who would be Austin's next publisher for Emma Onward, expressed his astonishment that such a novel could go out into the world in such a small edition, which I think is a rather lovely thing to say about someone's work. He then joins John Murray for the publication of Emma, which is published in December 1815. Although of course on the title page it says 1816, 2000 copies of that novel were printed and they'd sold over half the print run by October 1816. They sold 1200 and just under 1250 copies by the October and Northanger Abbey you have a print run of Northanger Abbey. In Persuasion I should say published together you have a print run of 1750 copies. So these are small printings, then I will say, not particularly different to what an untried debut author might be published in hard back today in a first printing, before they really prove themselves. So that's how many.

Izzy: 38:21

Before they take off on TikTok in it now yeah.

Tom: 38:26

But that's the thing. Now that we have. We'll have a small run in hardback which is quite conservative, and then, if it does take off, print a shed loads of paperbacks, which is much, much cheaper. In Austen's day. You'd have a small run of hardbacks, hope they sell out and if they do, commission a second or in the case of Pride and Predecy, you even get a third edition. But if you don't, then the print run either gets remained or eventually sells out and then doesn't get reprinted. And that's what you have with Jane Austen in the 1820s. No work of Jane Austen gets printed in the English language. In the 1820s she's totally out of print, which is quite interesting to think about, considering that she was a novelist of some regard at the time of, and popularity at the time of her death. Yet readers in the 1820s would have to try and find second-hand copies of her books if she wanted to read them. All. Hope that their circulating libraries still had access to copies.

Izzy: 39:41

Wow, that's wild to think about. If you think about how many versions are published now multiple a year you know there's so many that's quite crazy to think about. It would be really good to talk as well in terms of when she was being published and everything, the fact that North Anger and Abby in Persuasion were published after her death and also by her family, because obviously she wasn't there to do it herself, so her brother actually wrote like a little like forward for her.

Tom: 40:12

Yes, absolutely, henry's is called the biographical notice of the author. All of Austin's works were published anonymously Initially. You have sense and sensibility which, as I mentioned earlier, just says biologically, just says by a lady on the title page and then with her subsequent novels it will say by the author of sense sensibility, by the author of sense and persuasion or since I've been a private prejudice, and so on. This was completely normal for the time. It was standard practice that authors of novels wouldn't be, wouldn't be mentioned on the title pages, and that's authors of novels, of both male and female authors. I should say there's there's no discrepancy in the anonymous publication of novels between male and female writers. Poetry is different and the difference is is that novel writing was considered something of a low pursuit, it was sensationalist, it wasn't held in high regard. You have, like I mentioned earlier, mr Collins's reaction to being handed a handed a novel, one of her essays you have. The Bodleian Library in Oxford was one of many libraries that rejected novels on the grounds that they were unserious. The founder of the Bodleian Library, sir Thomas Bodley, declared that he wanted no idle books and riffraff in the library and novels, including Jane Austen's novels, were included in this and the library, although it was entitled to a free copy of her novels as a as a copyright deposit library, didn't take them and had to buy their first editions at great expense many, many years later.

Tom: 42:01

But I've got distracted from the point which is North Anger Abbey in Persuasion which is published in 1817. After Jane's Jane's death she died obviously in July 1817 and breaking with this formal tradition, that author not be identified in in her novels. And I have the biographical notice of the author which has an incredibly touching opening by her brother Henry, which says and I can't quote it by heart it says that since her novels have caused no small amount of public delight, people might like to know a little bit about Jane Austen. And we get her, you know her first biography, in the introduction to North Anger Abbey in Persuasion. She has mentioned, incidentally only in the first paragraph of that biography by name. The title page of North Anger Abbey in Persuasion still says by the author of Sense, sensibility, prine, prejudice, etc. The title of the introduction is not a biographical notice of Jane Austen, it's a biographical notice of the author which again tells us quite a lot about the sort of status I suppose that writers of novels were held in in her day.

Tom: 43:23

This doesn't mean, of course, that she was totally unknown. In her own time. People did know that Jane Austen was the author of these novels. She did receive what I suppose you might call fan mail from people who enjoyed reading her work. So she wasn't completely anonymous. But the I suppose what she might call the sort of average reader picking it up in the circulating library would simply say, oh, I enjoyed Sense and Sensibility. This is by the same author. I'll take that as well.

Izzy: 44:02

Yeah, absolutely, that's so interesting. But I never realized that that actually wasn't a difference between male and female writers, that actually it was the genre itself, the fact that it was like these novels and that they were like, you know, fictional stories and everything. That's why they weren't kind of held in the same esteem as some other works. But yeah, that's fascinating.

Tom: 44:23

Yes, and I should say that this does change as you move through the 19th century. So in sort of Austen's day there were famous novelists who would be mentioned by name on the title pages of their novels, people like, say, walter Scott. And as you move through the 19th century you do get the phenomenon of literary celebrity for novel writers. I'm thinking of people like William Thackeray and Charles Dickens. But you know, in the 1830s and 1840s the Bronte sisters took up male pseudonyms to publish their novels so that they would be taken seriously and interestingly, so that the fact that they were women wasn't mentioned in the discussion of their works. They thought it, you know, they would be taken, the work would be taken on its own merits if they were published as men. So that does change. And as you move through the 19th century you still have anonymous female novelists and female novelists using male pseudonyms as the number of male writers willing to put their names to their work increases. But in Austen's day is absolutely the default position for an author of novels in Austen's day was anonymous.

Izzy: 45:44

Yeah, which makes a lot of sense because Austen herself makes commentary on the fact that it was kind of seen as this like craze, that people were rushing to buy these novels, and it was often associated with women doing it as well. So I think we see like a lot of caricatures at the time, like these women like flocking to bookshops to buy the latest novel.

Tom: 46:04

Yeah, yeah, I mean, you see, you see it sort of, you know, discussed and treated some way in North Angrabi and the treatment of Gothic fiction, then I mean that is that is sort of treated as a sort of hysterical subgenre of a whole already hysterical genre being a subgenre of the novel. Absolutely, I mean, you know, novels weren't held in this, in this high esteem, and I should say that the you know, the, just as it is today, women were the, you know, the main readers of these novels and that's why, that's why that's certainly in part why they weren't taken seriously as well as writing a good deal of them. I do love that scene where Mr Collins rejects the novel that he's given, thinking it's from a circulating library, but is contented when instead he's handed a volume of sermons to read, which is exactly the sort of thing, you know, a serious man and clergyman should be spending his time reading.

Izzy: 47:09

I know Mr Collins cracks me up. I love in North Angrabi as well, but Henry's male character like Henry's only the fact that he is really into novels and reads novels and everything, because I just think that's such a good thing for her to put out there to see that obviously probably wasn't just women. They're actually there, are men that read them and they can be respectable. Men are reading these books as well.

Tom: 47:30

Yes, yes, but it's interesting that the sort of in the novel she has to kind of make such a point of it and he has to say so sort of. He does kind of vehemently defend the reading of novels and says you know, I mean not in these words, but wouldn't trust a chap who didn't. But the very fact that this is this is something that Austin's choosing to highlight about one of her characters is is an indication of its, of its rarity in her time.

Izzy: 48:01

Yes, absolutely. I love that. Something else that I want to discuss, then is I know I mind myself, I'd like, I'd love to have a first edition Austin, but there are other copies that have, you know, had pretty incredible fame that were published later. One that comes to mind is Hugh Thompson's peacock edition that is just so well known.

Tom: 48:22

Yes, yes, and it's an interesting thing that the peacock and what we call the peacock pride and prejudice it's, it's, it's a insult of pure, pure bibliographic terms. It's the the first edition to have Hugh Thompson's illustrations and it's published in this series of books that has very ornate, guilt decorated bindings and the the binding on PMP, has this beautiful sort of very richly guilt peacock on it. That that's a book that has hasn't always been valuable. It used to be the case that you could pick it up for not much more than the equivalent copies of sense and sensibility and Emma and so on, and indeed not much more than other books published in that, in that same series. They all have, you know, navy blue cloth with decorative guilt bindings and illustrations in the books themselves. But it has taken on a sort of life of its own and you know it's really accelerating the last 10 years. That because a very, very recent phenomenon. It's probably the the price of one in.

Tom: 49:40

I've been in the book trade for seven years. It's probably at least trebled in the time I've been there and I do have a theory about that and my theory is that it's probably the most Instagrammable 19th century novel. It's. It's, it's incredibly eye-catching and beautiful to look at and when you're sort of looking at an incredible collection of, say, 19th century literature, it can look to the untrader. If you put aside the rarity of having these books in their original cloth bindings, it can just look like a wall of grey and brown and navy and not particularly fun or decorative, whereas the Peacock edition is instantly eye-catching and covered as an object. So that's a sort of very recent, very interesting recent phenomenon in Austin collecting. It's not particularly rare, I should say there are copies abound.

Izzy: 50:47

Quite a lot of copies. Yeah, it is more that it's just become so expensive. It's something that really stands out to me as well that I think that's why people now perceive it to be such a collector's item, because it's you know, you actually have to pay out quite a lot of money for it now. Well, in the grand scheme of things, obviously like not as much as you would for something earlier.

Tom: 51:07

Well, yes, I mean I will confess it's not a book I particularly like, and part of the reason that I don't like it is because that it's become so expensive that you can put that money into so many different places in collecting Jane Austen and get you know far more interesting things than essentially just some guilt decoration on a binding. You know, because taking taking the individual facets of that book on its own, hugh Thompson is a lovely, though not massively sought after or collected illustrator, so his contribution isn't really doing much. It's not particularly rare because so many copies survive and guilt bindings of that type of the period are not particularly rare and you can buy other books in that series for literally 10 or 15 pounds of perfect condition. So it is purely the cache of P&P as a novel and the fact that it is the sort of most loved and sought after of Jane Austen's novels and the fact that it's got a pretty binding. But you can take the.

Tom: 52:21

You know, I mean I see copies change hands now, for I mean I see people ask for in 5,000 pounds for them and I don't think. I think that those prices are, you know, too high. But copies certainly do change hands for two or three thousand pounds, but you can buy so many more interesting things than a bit of gold on a on a Navy cover for that. You can even get sort of, you know, interesting 19th century editions of them. You can get things like RW Chapman's Amazing Oxford edition of Austen's work, which is as comprehensive an edition of Austen's work as you could possibly hope for and includes, incidentally, published for the first time, those two discarded chapters of persuasion that I mentioned earlier. So if you're interested in the sort of literary history of Austen, for much less money you can go and get Jane Austen's complete work, complete works edited by RW Chapman in beautiful and ornate bindings, and get so, so much more out of it. I think then, from then, from something like the Peacock edition.

Izzy: 53:21

And if you're particularly interested in Hugh Thompson's illustrations, like I do have, I have like an 1899 and a 1902 copy. Oh yeah, I love that North, south and Grubby in Persuasion, but he has the same illustrations in writing. Not necessarily. You know wasn't super cheap, but between 100 and 200 pounds you can get like copies, more like that, and you know I treasure those very nice and so yeah, and they have really nice pretty gold pages as well. The M is definitely in a better condition than this one, but it's it's still really nice copies to collect, like you said. You know, with the 3000 pounds I could have all sorts of different books.

Tom: 54:00

Yes, absolutely. I mean you could. You could have sort of, you know, beautiful copies of all of her novels, for for that not, not in first or sort of lifetime editions. But there's, yeah, there's so many interesting things you can do and that is you know that that is sort of one of the things that is so important about collecting books and to bear in mind when you're collecting books is is to get an appreciation of of what's out there and also of why things are considered valuable.

Tom: 54:34

Printed books by their nature, this sort of joy of them is their multiplicity. They survive, except for extraordinarily rare books that may only survive in a single copy. Jane Austen's novels, even her first editions, plenty of copies of them survive, and you know, some with first editions come on the market and with late traditions, many, many of them come on the market and are on the market at any given time. So what becomes interesting are the differences between those copies, and that's where the collecting gets really far, where you go into those object differences and think you know, not just what book do I want to buy, so you know, be that a peacock pride and prejudice or first edition of pride and prejudice, but what sort of copy of that book do I want to buy, and getting into the weeds of that and what, what would be meaningful to you and important to you, can help you navigate that market.

Tom: 55:28

Now that might be the binding. You might want to own them in an original binding, you know, in boards, or in a particular leather binding or in a sort of you know incredibly fancy modern binding. It could be their provenance. You know who owned it was owned by an interesting person who you can think, oh, they read Jane Austen. Or maybe a provenance in Scotland. You know there's so many different things you can get into within. You know printings and editions of books.

Izzy: 56:02

I love this. I have such a great example of this where I have some zodiac press editions actually in. I got them from a bookshop in Derbyshire actually when I got them that, and they're not not that old, these ones like 1960s. But the reason that I like them so much is they had they were from the library of Fiona McCarthy, who was a Byron biographer. She died and this guy bought a whole of her library. But I just thought I'm not like a massive Byron fan, necessarily, like I enjoy his works but I'm not, you know, overly like infatuated with the guy. But it was just that somebody who obviously was this scholar who'd been writing that I have her cockies meant a lot to me and so I totally agree. I feel like it is. It's such a individual experience collecting books sometimes that actually it's more sentimental of why you buy them and sometimes that they can mean more to you and can have more value because of that.

Tom: 56:58

Yeah, absolutely. And again, you know it's about looking for those. You know differences sort of within print runs as well as you know, outside of them and that variety that makes it so far.

Tom: 57:13

I mean what people?

Tom: 57:13

What is a question that someone you know, that people often ask me is you know how much is a first edition of Pride and Prejudice?

Tom: 57:22

Well, the question is, it depends on the copy.

Tom: 57:24

And there's this there's if you, if you were to take this sort of average price of Pride and Prejudice and the average price of, I don't know, emma, there is probably more price difference within the within, or between two copies of Pride and Prejudice at either end of the spectrum. Then there is between the average copy of Pride and Prejudice and the average copy of Emma. If that makes sense and that sort of shows how, when you get into the weeds, this and start looking at these things closely which is something that I encourage all people who want to get into collecting to do actually look at these things you can get into all of that because you know a sort of. You know you might be able to pick up a very ratty copy of PMP for, you know, 40 or 50,000 pounds, or a pristine copy for 150, which is, you know there's a whole world of difference between them and it also means there's there's a lot of expensive mistakes to make if you don't know what you're doing or don't know what you're looking at.

Izzy: 58:29

Yes, oh, my goodness. Yeah, I think that is true as well, and I think obviously that's why people like yourself come in, tom, and it's valuable, I think, to know somebody in the industry and get the support from somebody who actually knows what they're looking for, because it is something you can spend a lot of money on if you're not careful, you know, in your after maybe your first edition. I do think there's value in knowing what you're looking for, as you say.

Tom: 58:51

Well, absolutely. You know, I see literally every single day books that are, you know, poorly described or incorrectly described, or people buying things and they're not really sure what they're buying. And you know, a lot of this is built on the fact that you know people buying books online now rather than in person, and it's an amazing tool being able to buy books online and I sell books online. But I would still recommend even though it's not necessarily in my interest go out and actually look at things in person, because there is an ocean of difference between never having seen a copy of a book in person and seeing and having seen one copy of that book in person. And if you can change that one to five or that one to seeing 10 different copies of the book, you have so much more information to go on.

Tom: 59:48

One of the things that is a sort of interesting bit of subterfuge in Jane Austen first edition because it's obviously an expensive business and has been for a while I mean, jane Austen has been a sort of author for over 100 years is that those novels that were published in multiple editions in her lifetime, like Pride and Pediatrics.

Tom: 1:00:09

So there's first edition and the second edition. People would take a second edition, which is much cheaper, and put facsimile title pages of a first edition in front of it and make it look like it's a first edition. They might also have a first edition that doesn't have its half title page. So the half title page is the very first printed page in the book before the title page. So it would just say usually it will just say the title of the novel and have a double rule above and a double rule below.

Tom: 1:00:40

People would take those from a second edition or a third edition and put them in a first edition to make it complete and therefore more valuable. And the way you get into actually telling the difference of whether you have the real deal or not is not particularly easy to do and it requires incredibly close scrutiny. So when you're talking about spending tens or hundreds of thousands of pounds on a book, it's absolutely vital that you know exactly what you're getting. Whether in the last 200 years this thing has been played about with or not is hugely important.

Izzy: 1:01:16

Wow, I never knew that. In a weird way I'd also kind of want one of those coffees because I'd be like, let me tell you the story behind this coffee. Somebody edited it to make it look more expensive, which is kind of fascinating as well. But I agree, I think there is something about seeing books both of these Macmillan and Coons that I have, of course, online and yet the Emma was much cheaper than the North Angrabi in persuasion, but the Emma is in much better condition. But you wouldn't be able to tell that online.

Izzy: 1:01:46

So it's kind of a bit of a roll of the dice when you're buying books online. So there is something about going in person and feeling it and seeing them, and if you can go to a bookshop, it's chatting to the people there as well. Like I said, it was great to chat to that guy when I was purchasing the Zodiac Press set that I have, just because he had a story behind it and there is like an inscription. It does say that it's from Fiona McAfee's library and everything, but it's just nice to have that conversation as well. It's kind of a whole process, isn't it? Collecting books, and it's the journey and it's the connections that you can make doing it as well. That's meaningful.

Tom: 1:02:23

Absolutely. I mean, the joy of book collecting is that it isn't perfect and books are these complicated objects and all these sort of different things that we've spoken about can happen to a book after it's published. So there's no replacement for seeing it in person and there's so little that sort of online sites can do. I mean, sites like Abe Books and in eBay are great tools, but all they're really good for is ranking things in price order. They can't rank things most interesting to least interesting or best condition to worst condition or thing I'd like the most to thing I'd like the least, and so much information can be gleaned for seeing these things in person.

Tom: 1:03:15

One thing I'm a great evangelist for is visiting book fairs. Whether you're a beginner collector, whether you've been collecting for a while, there are so many book fairs in the UK where you can go and look at these books in person and handle them and get grips with them. You can go on to that. There's two antiquarian booksellers, sort of trade associations in the UK the ABA, who run a small number of fairs, and the PBFA, who run a lot of book fairs and sort of. Wherever you are in the country, there will probably be a PBFA fair somewhere near you.

Tom: 1:03:51

I'd really encourage you to, and your viewers to, seek those out, because I could bet that there will be something Austin related at every single one of those fairs, and at many of them there'll be lots of things Austin related and you can go and handle it and see what it looks like and buy it or ask them questions about it or, you know, put it back on the shelf.

Izzy: 1:04:16

I love that. I'm definitely going to do that. That sounds so exciting. It sounds like a great day out. I definitely want to be doing that. Something that, before we wrap up, I really want to touch on as well is, for those people that are collecting, who are listening to the podcast, just kind of some quick guidance about how to take care of books. Something that I loved in one of your posts recently is you kind of busted the myth that you need to be wearing gloves when handling older texts all the time, so I would love to touch on that.

Tom: 1:04:40

Yes, yes, I mean, don't wear gloves. Why this myth is so pervasive, I don't know. And it was one of one of the most discompobulating things about starting to paste about what I do on social media was discovering how widespread the white glove myth is and televisions really to blame for it television and film, because it's. It's used in TV shows and films as a sort of signal. It's like we are wearing gloves. Therefore, this object is important, but it's actually far. You know. It does nothing to help you handle the book. In fact, it makes it far more difficult and you're more likely to rip pages or drop the book when you're wearing gloves versus just using your your hands. So don't go out and buy some gloves, number one.

Tom: 1:05:29

Number two is thankfully, books are very easy to take care of in most parts of the world. Certainly, we're both. We're both British, and here the environment is actually quite well suited for books. You want to the things sort of take, take note of and take care of. You don't need to sort of go out buying expensive thermometers and humidity measurement material, but you do want a sort of normal room temperature 16 to 19 degrees is optimal and you want a sort of medium and steady humidity Now in the UK.

Tom: 1:06:04

That's fine because the sort of environment we live in is sort of about the 45 to 50% humidity anyway and because of our weather, you know, we don't have extraordinarily hot, humid summers or dry, cold winters or vice versa, so it stays stable. But if you are living somewhere in the world that is particularly, particularly humid or particularly dry, that might be worth investigating for the storage of your books. And the other thing is you don't want them in sort of direct, direct sunlight, so if you can have them on a bookshelf away from a wall or where where there's a blind I'm sat in front of a gigantic Victorian window that's bigger than I am and I have to keep the blind shut in my library all day for that reason. But you know it helps take the book and prevents it from light damage.

Izzy: 1:06:56

Yes, I love that. Thank you so much. I've had such a great time, tom. Honestly, I've learned so much. I'm very excited about this. I'm sure my listeners are going to love this episode. So we would love to hear from you. Feel free to add an incident in the Q&A on Spotify, in the comments below or DM me or Tom. Absolutely, we would love to hear from you. But, tom, do you want to let people know where they can find you and kind of what content you're sharing, and also you know if people want to get involved with actually the books that you're selling and coming chat to you about collecting.

Tom: 1:07:23

Yeah, absolutely so. My app is Tom W Ailing on all social media. You can find me on TikTok, youtube, instagram, snapchat. You can visit my website, which is TomWAilingcouk, where you can sign up to receive my catalogs or browse books that I have for sale, or send me an email, and then, yes, I exhibit at Bookfair, so you can always drop me a line, see where I'm going to be exhibiting next and we can, you know, meet and chat about Jane Austen in person.

Izzy: 1:07:59

Amazing. I love that. Thank you so much again, tom, and that's everything from us today, and I will see you in another episode.


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