Watsons MS. sold for nearly a million pounds (UPDATED)


The partial manuscript of Austen’s unfinished work “The Watsons” was sold at auction this morning. Looking directly at the Sotheby’s catalogue (requires Flash, unfortunately), the “hammer price with buyer’s premium” is listed at £993,250 ($1.6 million USD). WOW. More news as we find it.

The Bodleian Library at Oxford University has purchased the manuscript. YES. Apparently this is a joint effort.

The acquisition which cost in excess of £1 million was made possible with a substantial grant (£894,700) from the National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF). Other generous funders are the Friends of the National Libraries, the Friends of the Bodleian, Jane Austen’s House Museum (Jane Austen Memorial Trust) as well as other supporters.

And the Bodleian shows its good manners as it announces plans to share its new toy with the other children:

The manuscript is such a valuable part of our literary heritage and we are glad it will stay now in Britain. We will make the manuscript available to the general public who can come and see it as early as this autumn when The Watsons will indeed be a star item in our forthcoming exhibition Treasures of the Bodleian.

Two words: BOO. YA. Thanks to Alert Janeites Boris and Marian for the links.

Auntie Beeb has video! The selling price was £850,000, plus the buyer’s premium. So more like $1.3 million. A bargain! Thanks to Alert Janeite Kathleen for the link.

AP reports that the document sold to “an anonymous buyer after extended four-way bidding in the salesroom.”

artdaily.org reports, “The most important Jane Austen item to come to the market in over 20 years was bought by an anonymous bidder in the room to a round of applause.” We’ll bet.

10 thoughts on “Watsons MS. sold for nearly a million pounds (UPDATED)

  1. Maria L.

    That’s a cool $1.6M, three times the highest estimate. What would Jane think and I wonder who the anonymous purchaser is?


    • Maria L.

      I think Barbara Pym, who makes a number of references to Austen in her books, would have been so pleased to see that the manuscript went to the Bodleian–which is frequented by a number of Pym’s own characters.


  2. Alert Janeite Lisa and I are pleased to note that JASNA Syracuse and JASNA New York Metro had a reporter on the scene: JASNA-NYM Co-Regional Coordinator Meg Levin (who is a firm friend of the Upstate regions as well) was present at the auction, and rushed to send us an iPod report from the Apple store on Regent Street. I’ve updated my original post on the JASNA Syracuse blog with the information about the Bodleian as the purchaser; many thanks!


  3. Jeffrey

    Miss Austen’s legend and legacy continue to flex muscles! To hand-write a manuscript of considerable size with a nib pen and ink is quite extraordinary. Her handwriting is as straight as a string, flowing, and simply beautiful. Cursive of that kind is a lost art.


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