A Novel. In Three Volumes. By the Author of "Pride and Prejudice." The Second Edition. London: printed for the Author, by C. Roworth... and published by T. Egerton, 1813. Original light reddish-brown muslin cloth with printed spine labels.
"Second Edition" of Jane Austen's first published work, which like the first edition ("By a Lady," two years earlier in 1811), was published at her own expense. It took two years for the first edition to sell out, but in 1813 it was helped out by the popularity of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE -- with the result that the second edition of each was published in October 1813. "The text is believed to have been revised by the author; there are some major differences... and many minor changes" [Gilson] -- thus this second edition constitutes the "definitive edition," i.e. the text the way the author wanted it at the time of her death in 1817. This second edition was still being advertised by Egerton in November 1815 -- at which time Egerton was advertising a "New Edition" of this novel -- but there wasn't one; Egerton was instead being a bit "creative" in trying to unload his unsold copies, inasmuch as the author was then quitting him for the publisher John Murray. Austen received a S&S royalty payment from Egerton as late as March 1817 (she died four months later), but there was no further printing of SENSE AND SENSIBILITY until 1833, when Bentley included the novel in his series of Standard Novels.
The primary binding for these three volumes is blue-grey paper-covered boards, with printed labels that differ very slightly from those of the first edition (-- see examples in Gilson). Regarding this "second edition" Gilson states that "Copies in original boards appear for sale only very rarely," citing only two such copies in 1930 and "no record of sales of copies in original boards in recent years." This set is certainly in its original binding, and has those precise labels, but is in a light muslin cloth that is a good example of the English binding style adopted in the late 1820s and early 1830s. Since this clearly is these sheets' first binding-up, our opinion is that this constitutes a publisher's remainder binding from those first years of cloth bindings: undoubtedly there were still some sets of sheets not yet bound up after all those years, and whatever publisher then owned them wanted them gone before the arrival of some new edition (Bentley's) onto the market. So: this set is not in the primary binding of paper-covered boards with labels, but it IS in its original publisher's binding of some years later (with those same labels) -- far more desirable than volumes which were simply rebound by some owner.
Condition: First and foremost, the edges of the leaves of these volumes remain uncut (untrimmed) -- further bolstering the fact that this is the original binding-up. All three half-titles are present; the only leaf lacking (verified by a Quaritch cataloguer some time back) is the final blank leaf in Vol I. There is minor wear at the spine ends, but without any sort of repair there; the spines are a little faded (as one would expect with this color), and the original spine labels have slight edge-wear not affecting lettering. The Vol I endpapers have a thin strip of matching paper at the gutters; the endpapers in the other two volumes have only minor cracking. Glued to the Vol I front endpaper are a couple of old catalogue descriptions of other copies. For volumes still in their original binding some 190 years after the leaves were first bound up, this is remarkable condition. Gilson A2. Housed in a custom clamshell case with leather labels. Provenance: Vol I bookplate of Augustine Birrell (1850-1933), the barrister, politician, and author -- who became Chief Secretary for Ireland for the period 1907-1916 (in which post he was praised for enabling tenant farmers to own their property, and for extending university education for Catholics, but he resigned following the Easter Rising). Item #13884