George Austen’s Library

George Austen’s collection of books (some 500 volumes) were sold when the family moved from Steventon to Bath in 1801. James Austen bought some of the volumes (approx 200), but not all.

In the Jane Austen Society Report of 1993, an article by Robin Vick describes the sale of the family’s possessions. It was undertaken by Benjamin Stroud an auctioneer and valuer of Newbury. The first sale noticed appeared in the Reading Mercury and Oxford Gazette of 13th April 1801 and was followed by this notice in the Reading Mercury on the 20th April .

“Steventon Parsonage, Near Overton ,Hant. 
to be SOLD by AUCTION by MR STROUD, on the premises, on Tuesday the 5th May,1801, and two following days, at eleven o’ clock. 
The neat HOUSEHOLD FURNITURE, well made Chariot (with box to take off) and Harness, 200 volumes of books, Stump of Hay, Fowling Pieces, three Norman Cows and calves, one Horse and other Effects.

The furniture comprises four-post and field bed steads, with dimity, moreen and other furniture, fine feather beds and bedding, mattrresses, pier and dressing glasses, floor and bedside carpets, handsome mahogany sideboard, modern set of cirular dining tables on pillar and claws. Pembroke and card ditto, bureaus, chests of drawers and chairs, a piano forte in a handsome case by Ganer, a large collection of music by the most celebrated composers, and 18 inch terrestial globe by Adams, and microscope, mahogany library table with drawers; bookcase with six doors, eight feet by eight feet; a smaller ditto, tea china. A table set of Wedgwood ware, eight-day clock, side of bacon; kitchen dairy and brewing utensils, 13 ironbound casks, an end of hops, set of theatrical scenes &,&”

Mr Vicks notes that the 200 volumes here may mean complete works (consisting of 2 or more individual volumes. See JAs letter 14th January 1801;

“My father has got above 500 volumes to dispose of; I want James to take them at a venture at half a guinea a volume”

On 21 May JA wrote; 
“Mr bent( the first valuer they employed) seems bent upon being very detestable for he values the books at only £70. The whole world is in a conspiracy to enrich one part of our family at the expense of the other”

I admire the play on words, given the frustrating circumstances. She expected £150 guineas- not £70.