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  • Writer's pictureDeborah Yaffe

The price of perfection

I was born with a completist gene. I like to finish things up – books, TV series, leftovers. I like to own full sets of things. I abhor the imperfect, the partially completed, the abandoned-halfway-through.

I know Freud has a word for this, but I don’t want to discuss it.

Instead, I will note that a rare book sale taking place next week seems made for the likes of me. On February 20, Swann Galleries, a New York auction house, will auction first editions of all Jane Austen’s novels – three-volume sets of Emma, Mansfield Park, Pride and Prejudice, and Sense and Sensibility, plus the combined four-volume edition of Northanger Abbey and Persuasion.

Estimated prices range from a mere $3,000-$4,000 for the Northanger Abbey/Persuasion combo up to a heftier $30,000-$40,000 for Sense and Sensibility, which had the smallest initial print run among Austen’s novels and therefore remains the rarest of her first editions.

If you aim to buy a complete set of all six first editions – and if you’re looking for an early birthday gift for me, that’s what you’ll want to get – it’s estimated that it will run you between $76,000 and $106,000. I never said perfection came cheap.


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