Tuesday, 28 January 2014

The Publication of Pride and Prejudice

Today I relate the story of a literary classic and a book that has become beloved of millions of readers in the years since its initial publication. A tale of manners, morality, love and life, Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice has become a legend.

In autumn 1796,  21 year old Jane Austen took up her pen to begin work on a novel entitled, First Impressions. She spent the better part of a year preparing the manuscript and her father took it upon himself to offer the work to London publisher Thomas Cadell, who declined any further interest. Jane worked on other novels and writing until 1811 when she returned to the work and made a number of significant revisions to the story, as well as giving her manuscript a new title. Gone was First Impressions and in its place was Pride and Prejudice.


Title page from the first edition of the first volume of Pride and Prejudice
Title page from the first edition of the first volume of Pride and Prejudice

Renaming the novel was no doubt a wise move as two other books with the same title had been published in the years since she first began work and the time when she returned to make revisions. With the newly reworked novel now ready for publication, Jane submitted it with an asking price of £150 to Thomas Egerton of Whitehall. The firm agreed to take the work and a payment of £110 was negotiated. This proved a costly error as Jane agreed that the copyright would pass to Egerton in return for this single payment, meaning that all risk and any profit passed to him. In fact, the book would go on to be a success, with Jane seeing no additional royalties from its publication


The first edition was published in three volumes on 28th January 1813 and it was a hit. Critically lauded, the book sold out and a second edition followed towards the end of the year, with a third edition hitting the shelves four years later. It has gone on to become a literary legend, printed in dozens of languages and beloved by millions.

8 comments:

  1. Thank you, Madame, for highlighting the anniversary of the first edition of this wonderful and beloved classic.

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  2. Amazing story! It reminds me of how Elton John was locked into a punishing contract of six albums a year at 5% royalties for his first couple of years under an agent's wing! He was near bankrupt by the time he won his fair share of royalties from his early hits - in the 90s!!!!

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  3. Thanks you Catherine. Lovely tribute to one of my favorite novels.

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  4. Same thing happened to the Bronte sisters. They were cheated of royalties!
    Glad I'm an Indie!

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