AUSTEN. Mansfield Park. London: Richard Bentley, 1833.
12mo., variant of near-contemporary pebbled-grained cloth binding in purple, blindstamped with ivy design and borders, with painted black labels gilt to spine replicating the original publisher's binding; owner's armorial device in gilt to upper board; later decorative endpapers (c. 1850); speckled edges; frontis and vignette title page; pp. [ix], 2-424; title a little mottled and brown, as is common; a few small spots to the rear leaves; binding rubbed at corners, edges and along spine, particularly to head and foot, with the crest and lettering faded; the purple cloth retaining, unusually, most of its colour, despite being one particularly susceptible to fading; very good. Provenance: Book Plate and crest of John Scott to the front paste-down.
First Bentley, first one volume, and first illustrated edition.
After the first publication of Persuasion and Northanger Abbey by John Murray in 1818, there was a twelve year gap where no English reissues of Austen’s novels were available for purchase. Sales of those, her last two novels, had started off briskly, but interest waned and the final 282 copies of the 1750 print run were remaindered and some exported to Australia in 1821. In 1832, Richard Bentley, publisher, purchased the remaining copyrights to the novels. He published all of Austen’s works in 1833 in five volume sets known as the Standard Novels. They came with illustrations that were significant for depicting scenes in early Victorian, as opposed to Regency, settings. Bentley’s purchase marked a milestone; from then on in, Austen’s novels would always remain in print. At the time of the Bentley reissues, Jane Austen was still regarded as a niche writer. Only a few hundred copies of her books were published and reprinted over the years. When Bentley’s copyrights expired, other printers began to publish her works, but book sales remained modest. Then came 1870. The publication of A Memoir of Jane Austen by J.E. Austen-Leigh, Jane’s nephew, sparked renewed interest in her novels. Public demand continued to rise with the arrival of Bentley’s deluxe Steventon edition in six volumes in 1882. In 1884, Jane’s great nephew Lord Brabourne published the 2-volume set of Letters of Jane Austen. Combined with the previous publications and a largely favourable assessment of scholars and critics, Jane’s stardom was born.