Jane Austen manuscript sells for more than £990,000

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A rare Jane Austen manuscript will remain in the UK after being sold for £993,250 ($1.6m) in London.

Auction house Sotheby's had originally valued the unfinished novel - entitled The Watsons - at no more than £300,000.

The manuscript, originally owned privately, was purchased by the Bodleian Libraries of Oxford.

It is thought Austen wrote the tale, about a young woman who returns home to her father's household after being brought up by a wealthy aunt, in 1804.

Richard Ovenden, from Bodleian Libraries, said they were "delighted" to have secured "such a valuable part of our literary heritage".

"We are glad it will stay now in Britain," he added, saying the "priceless manuscript" would be made available to the general public as early as this autumn.

Much of the money came from the National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF), through a £894,700 grant.

"This was an unprecedented opportunity to acquire the only surviving original draft of a novel by one of our greatest and most popular writers," said Carole Souter of the NHMF.

Other organisations who donated included the Friends of the National Libraries, the Friends of the Bodleian and the Jane Austen Memorial Trust.

Sotheby's specialist Gabriel Heaton said the work was "particularly informative" because it is "very much a working draft".

Every page is littered with crossings out, revisions and additional text between some of the lines.

The BBC's arts editor Will Gompertz, who attended the auction, said there had been a very real possibility of the manuscript being sold to a foreign buyer.

This could have been the Morgan Library in New York, which already owns an eight-page element of the manuscript.

Austen published six complete novels, including Pride and Prejudice, Emma and Sense and Sensibility, before dying in 1817 at the age of 41.

With the exception of The Watsons, two draft chapters of Persuasion and two other works named Lady Susan and Sanditon, few of her draft works have survived.

The Bodleian Library already holds her Volume the First, a manuscript of Austen's juvenilia (early writings).

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