Third Edition of Pride and Prejudice, in the ephemeral original binding.
Pride and Prejudice. Printed for T. Egerton, Military Library, Whitehall, London, 1817. Third Edition. Two Volumes, uncut, in the publisher's original blue paper-covered boards with brown paper spines and paper spine labels [once pink, now faded to buff]. Complete with both half-titles, all the endpapers, and the terminal blank in Volume One.
Jane Austen in the Original Boards
In the early part of the nineteenth century, It was the custom in England for books to be published in ephemeral paper and/or boards, so that purchasers could have them bound according to their varied tastes and means. As a result, very few English books from the first decades of the century survive in their original bindings.
This was less the case in America. The First American edition of Frankenstein, for example, published in 1833, is about as likely to survive in the original binding as not (at least in this bookseller's experience). For the original editions of Jane Austen's novels, this ratio is dramatically different. Perhaps one in twenty-five copies survive in their original bindings. These copies command a premium when they appear at auction, selling for between five and ten times as much as rebound copies.
By the 1830s, English books began to be bound less ephemerally, and the Bentley reprints of Jane Austen's works appear more commonly in their original bindings. Still, rebound copies of the 1833 First Bentley printings (also the First Illustrated and First one-volume edition of each of Austen's titles) significantly outnumber copies in the original plum cloth with black spine labels (as below).
"Sense and Sensibility", "Mansfield Park," "Northanger Abbey and Persuasion," and "Pride and Prejudice." Richard Bentley, New Burlington Street, London, 1833. This set, though lacking "Emma", is in exceptional condition. The spines are faded, and the lower spine label on "Mansfield Park" is absent, but the cloth is virtually unworn.