London: Richard Bentley, 1833. First Collected Edition. 5 volumes, octavo (161 x 103 mm). Recent blue half calf, red morocco labels with gilt ornaments to spines, marbled boards. Bound without half-titles, terminal blanks and advertisements. Contemporary ownership signature to front free endpapers. Some faint foxing, faint staining to initial few leaves of Emma. A very attractive set.
In 1833 Richard Bentley bought the copyright of Pride and Prejudice from the executors of Thomas Egerton and of the remaining novels from Henry and Cassandra Austen. Austen's novels had not been reissued since 1818, so these printings published by the enterprising Bentley in his Standard Novels series constitute early editions: Sense and Sensibility, third edition (pre-dating the first American by a few months); Pride and Prejudice, fourth edition; Mansfield Park, third edition; Emma, second edition (omitting the dedication to the Prince Regent included in the first edition); Northanger Abbey/Persuasion, second edition. These are also the first English editions to be illustrated. The Bentley illustrations, by the obscure Ferdinand Pickering, played an integral part in the reception of Austen's novels, in that they "promoted a sense that her novels were best understood as familial, female focused, and sensational. For decades, these illustrations would have served to steer readers away from the conclusion that Austen's fiction ought to be understood as social, comic, or didactic" (Looser). Near Fine (Item #2304)