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Jane Austen autograph manuscript: 'The Watsons'

 Single Item
MS. Eng. e. 3764
Held at the Weston Library

  • Request

'The Watsons' unbound autograph manuscript first draft, was written by Jane Austen between 1804 and 1807 (possibly at Bath) and left unfinished. With autograph corrections and inserts.

The manuscript consists of ten quires, numbered 3 to 11 [quire 2 is missing]. Quires 3 to 10 consist of four leaves each and quire 11 of two leaves. Three 'patches' were originally attached by pins [one pin remaining]. A handwritten note by R.W. Chapman is included, stating he removed the pins for the purpose of transcribing and did not re-attach for long-term conservation purposes.


  • Creation: c.1804-1807


1 box

Language of Materials

  • English

Conditions Governing Access

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Preferred Citation

Oxford, Bodleian Libraries [followed by shelfmark and folio or page reference, e.g. MS. Eng. e. 3764, booklet 3, pp. 1-2].

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MS. Eng. e. 3764

Collection ID (for staff)

CMD ID 7757


Jane Austen (1775-1817) autograph manuscript of 'The Watsons', c.1804-1807.

Biographical / Historical

For a full biography of Jane Austen, see entry for Austen, Jane (1775-1817), novelist, in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

Custodial History

The manuscript of Jane Austen's 'The Watsons' descended from Jane Austen's sister Cassandra (1773-1845) to their niece, Caroline Mary Craven Austen (1805-1880). Her brother James Edward Austen-Leigh (1798-1874) first published the manuscript in 1870. The manuscript passed to Caroline's nephew, William Austen-Leigh. On 26 April 1915, William presented the first six leaves of the manuscript for a charity sale by Christie, Manson and Woods to raise money for the Red Cross. The remainder of the manuscript remained in the family's possession, descending to the nephew and nieces of William Austen-Leigh, though they placed the manuscript for some time on deposit at the British Museum. The manuscript was then sold at Sotherby's London in 1978 to the British Rail Pension Fund for £38,000. It was auctioned again in 1988 at Sotherby's, reaching a sale price of £90,000 and was bought by Sir Peter Michael, who placed the manuscript on deposit at Queen Mary University of London. On 14 July 2011, the manuscript was once again sold at Sotherby's and was bought by the Bodleian Library for almost £1 million.

The first six leaves of the manuscript were purchased in the Red Cross sale of 1915 by Lady Alice Wernher (later Lady Ludlow). Shortly after 1924, when R.W. Chapman examined the entire manuscript, they were in the possession of the London dealer C.J. Sawyer. The Morgan Library & Museum, New York, bought the first six leaves of the manuscript in 1925 from Sawyer and these six leaves remain at the Morgan Library (shelf mark MS. MA 1034).

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Bought by the Bodleian Library at auction from Sotherby's London in July 2011 with funds raised from a grant from the National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF) and donations from the Friends of the National Libraries, the Friends of the Bodleian and Jane Austen's House Museum (Jane Austen Memorial Trust).

Existence and Location of Copies

A digitised edition, including transcript, is available at and should be used in place of the original.

Related Materials

Morgan Library & Museum, New York

  1. MS. MA 1034 - The Watsons : autograph portion of the manuscript : [Bath?], [ca.1805].


  • First published in James Edward Austen Leigh, A memoir of Jane Austen (London, 2nd edition, 1871).
Jane Austen autograph manuscript: 'The Watsons' [c.1805]
Finding aid prepared by Rachael Marsay
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Bodleian Libraries Repository

Weston Library
Broad Street
Oxford OX1 3BG United Kingdom