A COLLECTION of manuscripts written by Jane Austen has been donated to Jane Austen’s House in Chawton and the Bodleian Libraries at Oxford University.
This donation was made by Friends of the National Libraries, a literary charity dedicated to preserving the nation’s written and printed heritage, after it saved the Honresfield Library, a private collection of manuscripts and printed books associated with some of the greatest writers in English literature.
The Friends worked in partnership with a consortium of research libraries and authors’ houses, including Jane Austen’s House and the Bodleian Libraries.
Their campaign involved an appeal for donations to save the works from being dispersed at auction.
It raised more than £15 million, including £4m from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and £7.5m from principal donor Sir Leonard Blavatnik. The collection is now known as the Blavatnik Honresfield Library.
The Austen collection includes two hugely significant personal letters. The autograph manuscripts of fewer than 160 letters by Jane Austen are known to survive, and these two letters will join 14 others already owned by Jane Austen’s House, which was Austen’s home for the last eight years of her life and where she wrote her novels.
The two letters in the Blavatnik Honresfield Library were both written to Austen’s sister Cassandra, one in 1813 and the other in 1796, the earliest known surviving letter bearing Austen’s signature.
The collection donated to Jane Austen’s House and the Bodleian Libraries also includes rare first editions of Pride and Prejudice, Emma, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion in their original condition.