Friday, February 1, 2013

The Publication of Pride and Prejudice

This week marks the 200th anniversary of the publication of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. It actually was on Monday, January the 28th. Today, though, is my day in our haphazard rotation, and as I have mostly presented pieces of history from the Regency era, this is one of them.


Often we equate John Murray (1778-1843) as a preeminent publisher of the period. He was. His father, also John (1745-1793), had started the famous publishing business. John II brought forth such works as Scott's Marmion, Byron's Childe Harold The Quarterly Review with the help of future prime minister George Canning.

Still, John Murray was not the first publisher of Austen's works, and not the publisher of Pride and Prejudice. This fell to Thomas Egerton. A man who did publish Austen's Sense and Sensibility.

Jane Austen began the writing of her most famous novel in 1796 and finished this novel then called First Impressions in August of 1797. On November 1 Austen's father, George, sent a letter to the London bookseller Thomas Cadell to see if he might have an interest in it. Cadell declined.

Jane revised the novel in 1811 and 1812. Fifteen years after she had written it, as a writer it is safe to say that her technique and skill would have improved in that time. She also of course changed the name of her novel during this time. Also of importance was that her Sense and Sensibility had been published.

But even prior to this, Austen had secured a publisher. In 1803 her brother henry had offered to Benjamin Crosby, Susan. The sum of £10 was paid. Crosby did nothing with the book beyond advertising it was "in the press." Even with her later success, the company did nothing and Austen repurchased her rights to the piece in 1816.


Thomas Egerton in the meantime accepted Sense and Sensibility for publication in three volumes in 1811 for his Military Library publishing house. Austen paid for the book to be published and then paid a commission on sales of the book. It cost more than a third of the annual household income of Jane and her family at the time. Yet she made a profit of £140 on the first edition, 1000 copies which sold out by July of 1813. A second edition was then published in October of 1813, but this is after Pride and Prejudice was released.

Thomas Egerton was obviously doing much better at taking a book from manuscript to sales than Crosby, and so Pride and Prejudice was offered to Egerton as well. Yet At the time, Austen did not know how well the book would sell, and Sense and Sensibility still had not finished selling its first printing. She sold the rights for a one-off payment to Egerton who made £450 from the first two editions. The amount Jane had paid Egerton to produce just the first printing of Sense and Sensibility.

You could have purchased the first edition of Pride and Prejudice for 18s. Today one of those editions would cost you more than £60,000. The first print run of 1500 copies sold out and a second edition was printed in November of 1813. A third edition was published in 1817. A French edition also appeared in 1813, and there were translations in German, Danish and Swedish. The First US edition was published in 1832. At the present time, Pride and Prejudice sells approximately 110,000 copies a year in about 130 different editions.

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Mr. Wilkin writes Regency Historicals and Romances, Ruritanian (A great sub-genre that is fun to explore) and Edwardian Romances, Science Fiction and Fantasy works. He is the author of the very successful Pride & Prejudice continuation; Colonel Fitzwilliam’s Correspondence. He has several other novels set in Regency England including The End of the World and The Shattered Mirror. His most recent work is the humorous spoof; Jane Austen and Ghostsa story of what would happen were we to make any of these Monsters and Austen stories into a movie.

And Two Peas in a Pod, a madcap tale of identical twin brothers in Regency London who find they must impersonate each other to pursue their loves.

The links for all locations selling Mr. Wilkin's work can be found at the webpage and will point you to your favorite internet bookstore: David’s Books, and at various Internet and realworld bookstores including the iBookstoreAmazonBarnes and NobleSmashwords.

He is published by Regency Assembly Press
And he maintains his own blog called The Things That Catch My Eye where the entire Regency Lexicon has been hosted these last months as well as the current work in progress of the full Regency Timeline is being presented.

You also may follow Mr. Wilkin on Twitter at @DWWilkin
Mr. Wilkin maintains a Pinterest page with pictures and links to all the Regency Research he uncovers at Pinterest Regency-Era

1 comment:

  1. I've always found it fascinating how great works were almost squelched right in the beginning for lack of interest and after a time become almost priceless.



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