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Jane Eyre
Jane Eyre
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“Reader, I married him.”
Jane Eyre

Charlotte Brontë, 1847

Details
Jane Eyre
Charlotte Brontë, 1847
[BRONTË, Charlotte (1816-1855).] Jane Eyre. An Autobiography. Edited by Currer Bell. London: Smith Elder, 1847.

First edition of Charlotte Brontë's revolutionary novel, unsophisticated, in original cloth. Abounding with social criticism and gothic elements, Jane Eyre changed the course of the English novel, and particularly the female heroine. After numerous publishers initially rejected her first novel The Professor, Brontë intensely focused her attention on a new work, rapidly finishing certain sections, while others took weeks or even months to complete, as reported by Elizabeth Gaskell. When she delivered the fair copy of the manuscript to the publisher on 19 August 1847, it was received enthusiastically by their reader W. Smith Williams and by the head of the firm, George Smith. It was printed on 19 October; the second edition, dedicated to William Makepeace Thackeray, was published in January 1848. It was very well received by both critics and the public, and by 1850 four editions had been printed.

Into the 20th century, the influence and status of Jane Eyre continued to grow. Virginia Woolf, writing in The Common Reader, speaks of the novel’s continuing relevance: “As we open Jane Eyre once more we cannot stifle the suspicion that we shall find her world of imagination as antiquated, mid-Victorian, and out of date as the parsonage on the moor, a place only to be visited by the curious, only preserved by the pious. So we open Jane Eyre; and in two pages every doubt is swept clean from our minds.” This copy has the 32-page publisher's catalogue dated October 1847 preceded by inset fly-title dated June 1847 and followed by inset leaf advertising The Calcutta Review. Ashley I:72; Grolier English 83; Sadleir 346; Smith 2; Wolff 826.

Three volumes, octavo (195 x 128 mm). Half-titles. 32-page publisher's catalogue dated October 1847 preceded by inset fly-title dated June 1847 and followed by inset leaf advertising. (Light foxing/spotting.) Original gray-purple fine-ribbed cloth, covers blocked in blind, spines gilt-lettered, binders' ticket of Westleys & Clark at rear inside cover of vols. I and II (hinges tender, some cracking to text block, vol 1 a little loose, mild fading to cloth, corners just showing); custom quarter morocco case (worn). Provenance: Signature of Holden on front endpaper of vol. I – Signature of J.K. Blackwell on title-page of vol. III – Katharine de B. Parsons (morocco bookplate to chemises, her sale, Sotheby’s, New York, 6 October 1976, lot 22) – Jane Engelhard (her sale, Christie’s New York, 27 October 1995, lot 6).

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Heather Weintraub
Heather Weintraub Specialist, Books, Manuscripts, & Archives

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