Update: 7/16
Austen's manuscript ended up selling for £990,000 (US$1.6 million)! It was purchased by Oxford University's Bodleian Library.

Original Post: 7/13/2011
The Watsons, an unfinished manuscript by Jane Austen is to be auctioned by Sotheby's tomorrow and is expected to sell for over $330,000. Apparently, Austen worked on The Watsons in 1804, after she'd drafted Sense and Sensibility, but abandoned it the same year.

The WatsonsIf you don't have a few hundred thousand dollars about your person you can still view the manuscripthere - which makes me wonder, why are institutions, let alone individuals, prepared to part with so much money to own a document such as this when it can be viewed by anyone with a computer, anywhere, anytime for free?

I can somewhat understand the compulsion to pay big money to own original documents before the internet, when they could be coveted in someone's private collection or provide a draw for a museum, but I'm a bit befuddled as to why The Watsons is predicted to draw big bucks when it's available to all to view on the web?

Am I an ignoramus who doesn't understand the beauty of being up close and personal with an original document? Or perhaps I'm just so out of the league of those who can spend this sort of money that I just can't imagine it (keeping in mind that this manuscript is pretty cheap compared with some books that have changed hands in recent years).

What do you think?

For me, I would buy something like that (though I couldn't afford that price tag!) because it was in Austen's possession - this piece of paper was written on by Jane Austen! There are a few authors that I would very much like to have something they had hand-written - especially something like the first draft of my favorite book. Even in the digital age - 'anyone can see it, but only I possess it' is still a valid conceit.
# Posted By Bev | 7/13/11 12:42 PM
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