Austen on the Block! ~ A First Edition Emma, Or, Where an Interesting Bookplate Might Take You…

UPDATE:  I posted the results here: it sold on March 19, 2013 at Bonham’s London for £8,125 (inc. premium) or about $12,312.


Jane Austen will again make an appearance in the upcoming Bonham’s auction on March 19, 2013: a first Edition Emma – here are the details:

Emma bonhams 3-2013Books, Maps, Manuscripts & Historical Photographs, No. 20751. 19 Mar 2013 14:00 GMT London, Knightsbridge


Emma, 3 vol., FIRST EDITION, half-titles in volumes 2 and 3, spotting, one gathering working loose and blank lower margin torn away from advertisement leaf at end of volume 3, one front free endpaper near detached, bookplate of “John Hawkshaw, Esq., Hollycombe”, contemporary half calf, gilt lettering on spines, headbands frayed (volume 2 with small loss at head and foot of backstrip) [Gilson A8; Keynes 8], 8vo, John Murray, 1816.

Estimate:  £4,000 – 5,000; €4,600 – 5,800;  US$ 6,100 – 7,700

Now this appears to be the same copy that did not sell at the Bonham’s November 13, 2012 auction where the estimates were substantially higher:
£6,000 – 8,000; €7,400 – 9,900;  US$ 9,500 – 13,000


My interest lies in the bookplate of “John Hawkshaw, Esq., Hollycombe” – always curious to see where a book has been and where it heads, and who are the participants in the story; it is often hard to track this information accurately unless a written provenance accompanies the book.  In this case it appears that all we have is this bookplate, and my research takes me thus, a very quick summary: [i.e how a whole afternoon can be spent tracing some stranger’s life and how it all can lead one down unimagined paths with only more extensive research to be undertaken …]

John Hawkshaw - wikipedia

John Hawkshaw – wikipedia

John Hawkshaw (1811 – 1891) was a British civil engineer from Yorkshire who was the chief engineer of a number of the railway lines in the Manchester area, later London, as well as responsible (some say the “saviour”) for the completion of the Suez Canal.  He was knighted in 1873. He lived at Hollycombe, his country estate in Liphook, Hampshire, purchased from Charles William Taylor in 1866. (To add to the confusion, the book titled A History of the Castles, Mansions, and Manors of Western Sussex, by Dudley George Cary Elwes, and Charles John Robinson (London, 1876), notes two other properties purchased by Hawkshaw from Taylor, so more research needed here.]

Hollycombe today is privately owned, but the pleasure gardens, expanded by Hawkshaw and more fully landscaped by his son [more on him below] are open to visitors, as is the nearby Hollycombe Steam Museum.

Hollycombe Steam Museum

Hollycombe Steam Museum

Their London home was in Belgrave Mansions, St. John’s Wood High Street, close to Bond Street in the heart of the West End.

But did John Hawkshaw read his copy Jane Austen’s Emma, or was his bookplate just really an owner stamp, and the real reader in the house was his wife Ann Hawkshaw? (though it is nice to imagine them all reading it aloud.)

a modern reprint

a modern reprint

Ann Hawkshaw (1812 – 1885) was an English poet. She published four volumes of poetry between 1842 and 1871. She married our John Hawkshaw in 1835 and they settled in Salford, near Manchester, where they mixed with the prominent thinkers of the day to include William and Elizabeth Gaskell. Her first volume of poetry Dionysius the Areopagite’ with Other Poems was published in 1842, followed by Poems for My Children in 1847. Sonnets on Anglo-Saxon History was published in 1854, and retells the history of Britain up to the Norman Conquest.

John Clarke Hawkshaw

John Clarke Hawkshaw

The Hawkshaws had six children, the most well-known was John Clarke Hawkshaw (1841-1921), who like his father was a civil engineer. In 1865 he married Cicely Wedgwood (1837-1917), daughter of Francis Wedgwood (1800-1880), grandson of Josiah Wedgwood, founder of the famed pottery firm. Francis’s sister Emma Wedgwood (1808-1896) married her cousin Charles Darwin (they were first cousins: Wedgwood’s daughter Susannah was Darwin’s mother). Emma was therefore Cicely’s Aunt and we can find this letter penned to her in the online Darwin Correspondence Project:

Hollycombe. | Liphook. | Hants.

Dear Aunt Emma

I am afraid it is too late to notice about the baby’s tears with any accuracy for I have repeatedly seen her eyes full of tears already but can give no nearer date than that I must have seen them so before she was 3 weeks old; about the tears overflowing onto her cheeks I can observe as I have never seen it happen yet, indeed it hardly happens in what one may call babydom does it?

We are having such a nice holiday here and as all the tiresome shooting is over I have Clarke to myself and we ride and walk about and don’t feel such strangers to the place as we did and the idle thoughtless life is doing Clarke good I am thankful to say.

Believe me dear Aunt Emma | Your affecte niece | Cicely M Hawkshaw

9th Feb. [1868]

Emma Darwin, 1840 - by George Richmond

Emma Darwin, 1840 – by George Richmond


So from this letter we know that John Clarke Hawkshaw was known as Clarke and that he was able to get away to the family home and enjoy some “idle thoughtless life”! [images of Downton Abbey!]

Such a dizzying trip from a simple bookplate in a first edition of Jane Austen! – we have encountered various British luminaries ranging from railroad and canal engineers, to literary and Unitarian connections in Manchester, to country estates in Hampshire [Jane’s own territory], to the Wedgwood Potteries of London, and ending with Evolution, all in one family’s connections.  It is comforting to think that this copy of Emma was read, enjoyed and discussed, and passed along to succeeding generations of this great family!  I wonder where it will end up come March 19th? … stay tuned!

c2013 Jane Austen in Vermont

9 thoughts on “Austen on the Block! ~ A First Edition Emma, Or, Where an Interesting Bookplate Might Take You…

    • Thanks Laurel Ann – so much more about the families involved – I only scratched the surface – how wonderful it would be to know who actually read the book and who was it passed down to – who owns it now – Bonhams will have more information on it – but I am surprised that they did not make more of the Hawkshaw / Wedgwood / Darwin connection in the offering… I would also like a picture of the bookplate…. there are other books out there with it – I did find that the son Clarke did much to the landscape and I just found this about the sale of Hollycombe to Hawkshaw Sr in 1866 that includes all the other estates [which I found in the cited book on castles in Sussex]::

      The estate covered 4260 acres and included Hollycombe House, North End Farm, Newlands Farm, Woodman’s Green Farm, Slathouse Farm, Redford Farm, Lyford’s Farm, Hurst Farm, Myers Farm, Wardley Farm, Milland Mill Farm, Walder’s Grove Farm, Hooklands Farm, Carter’s Land Farm, Crab Corner Farm, Crocker’s and Maysleaf Farms, Canhouse Farm, Combe Land Farm, Gun’s Farm, Great Brookham Farm, and the Manor of Lyss, in Bramshott, Stedham, Iping, Trotton, Linch, Woolbeding, Rogate, Chithurst, Bepton and Fernhurst…

      in the National Archives – you can see how going off on a tangent for a simple bookplate can turn into something that one does not have time for – and leaves Austen far behind… one needs to focus! – but this is so interesting!!


  1. Good sleuthing,Deb.I wonder how this will fare, especially as other more famous editions failed to sell recently?It will be interesting to follow its progress through the sale room.


    • Yes Julie – I know you wrote about the November auction – it was interesting to see that it did not sell – and now the estimate is set quite a bit lower – still too much for _my_pocketbook! – Will be interested to see how it fares that day – you will know before I do! I would love a picture of the Hawkshaw bookplate – I could find nothing on the internet but did not look that thoroughly – just keeping all the Wedgwoods straight was a task in itself!


  2. Wow, great research into it and what an interesting tale! I often wonder, when I encounter objects from the past, what history they’ve seen and whose fingers they have passed through. This meander of yours was a delightful read — and you’re right, tantalizing to know more as well.


    • Hi Tess – yes, only a very quick summary – it leads to all sorts of places and people and families of interest and only felt like I touched the surface – this is one of the things I love most about older and rare books – the history of where they have been, and often a lot of guesswork is involved – what is interesting is the mistakes I find along the way – how easy it is to put into print something that is incorrect and then the historical record changes until someone can ferret out the truth – in this quick project I found Cecily Wedgwood’s name misspelled in different sources – had to finally rely upon the letter to know the right one, and hoping that it was transcribed correctly. How grateful we should all be for Deirdre Le Faye’s doing so much of this for Austen studies….

      Thanks for visiting Tess!


  3. Oh my, what puzzle pieces you have put together:) I am a scientist by trade and loved the connection to Charles Darwin! I think my favorite line was from your dreamings, “though it is nice to imagine them all reading it aloud.” I can’t help but think of Marianne Dashwood commenting on Edward’s. Hopefully John Hawkshaw’s reading resembled Henry Crawford’s and not Edward’s, for “his reading was capital.”


  4. Pingback: Austen on the Block! ~ Jane Austen’s Emma Sells High | Jane Austen in Vermont

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