London: George Allen, 1894. First Thus. Iconic original green publisher's cloth binding stamped ornately in gilt to spine and front board with the peacock design. All edges brightly gilt. Green coated endpapers. Frontispiece with tissue guard and illustrations by Hugh Thomson. A Near Fine copy overall with slight bubbling to cloth of rear board and some foxing on the early and late pages. Previous owner's inscription and stamp on the half-title. Several illustrations hand-colored by a previous owner. A pleasing, square copy of a sought-after edition.
Austen was not yet 20 (like Elizabeth Bennet) when she drafted the novel, under the title First Impressions, between October 1796 and August 1797. Declined by the publisher Cadell, it subsequently underwent major revisions including a title change to Pride & Prejudice. Finally, in late 1812, the novel was accepted by Egerton and published in early 1813. The book sold well and was obviously much talked about, not least because of the unknown identity of the author. Anne Isabella Milbanke (the future Lady Byron) called it a very superior work” and “the most probable fiction I have ever read.” Madame de Staël borrowed a copy during her stay in London in 1813. The dramatist Richard Sheridan described it as “the cleverest thing he [had] ever read” - whereas, according to Jane’s brother Henry, an unidentified “gentleman” supposedly remarked that “[he] should like to know who is the author, for it is much too clever to have been written by a woman.” In fact, almost 200 years later it is as popular as ever with the number of adaptations steadily increasing.
The artist, Hugh Thomson, was most famous for his illustrations of Austen’s work, as well as the work of Charles Dickens. Known for his attention to detail, he would often spend a great deal of time in museums researching the lifestyles and dress of the characters he was depicting, Thomson started working on his drawings for Pride and Prejudice in 1893. They proved an immense success, selling over 10,000 copies in the few years after they were released. He would go on to illustrate many of Austen's other novels as well. (Item #4826)