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Thursday, 7 June, 2001, 10:53 GMT 11:53 UK
Austen 'vogue' fuels high prices
Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth
Ehle and Firth in the BBC's Pride and Prejudice
A set of first edition Jane Austen novels has been sold at auction in London for almost double their estimated price.

The novels - Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Northanger Abbey, Mansfield Park and Emma - were sold by Christies in South Kensington for 59,572 in total on Wednesday.

The estimate for the five books was 33,000, but Christies attributes the eventual sale price to interest in Austen's work.

Pride and Prejudice
This Pride and Prejudice was the winning sale
"The condition of the books was really very good and Jane Austen first editions don't come on the market very often," Christies Books specialist Mark Ghamramani told BBC News Online.

"But the real factor was the fact that Jane Austen is so in vogue and there was a lot of competition in the room."

The highest price paid at the auction was for a pristine copy of Pride and Prejudice sold for 23,500 to a bookshop in Henley on Thames.

A bookshop in West Hollywood, Los Angeles snapped up the copies of Sense and Sensibility for 15,275 and Northanger Abbey for 4,935.

Several very popular adaptations of Austen's works have contributed to the Austen interest, though she has always been a favourite with readers worldwide.

A BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice starring Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth thrilled the nation in 1995.

Renee Zellwegger
Bridget - a thoroughly modern Elizabeth Bennet?
And Bridget Jones author Helen Fielding has said that her story is based on Austen's Pride and Prejudice.

The casting of Colin Firth, who starred as the very popular Mr Darcy in the BBC adaptation, as Mark Darcy in the film Bridget Jones's Diary was a nod to the connection.

Crouching Tiger director Ang Lee leapt to fame with a version of Sense and Sensibility, with Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet, which won Oscars in 1999.

Emma Thompson
Thompson won an Oscar for the screenplay of Sense and Sensibility
Gwyneth Paltrow also played a memorable Emma in 1996, concurrently with a less successful television version starring Pearl Harbor actress Kate Beckinsale.

Jane Austen was born at the Rectory in Steventon, a little village in north-east Hampshire, on 16 December 1775.

She was the seventh child and second daughter of the rector and Steventon Rectory was her home for the first 25 years of her life.

Her books are sometimes criticised for their overwhelmingly domestic settings.

But the closely observed social interaction and the wit and irony of her style have made her one of the best known writers in the English-speaking world.

Her works have never been out of print since they were first published.

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