A serious proposal to the ladies, for the advancement of their true and greatest interest. By a lover of her sex
First edition: 1694
Mary Astell (1666-1731) is frequently referred to as the first English feminist. A Serious Proposal was her first published work and argued in support of the education of women. It proved to be an influential work, running to a further four editions by 1701, and provoking much debate and published response on the subject of women’s right to be educated.
Emma: a novel in two volumes
Philadelphia edition: 1833
When Jane Austen embarked on her fifth novel, Emma, she is said to have said “I am going to take a heroine whom no one but myself will much like.” She could not have been more wrong. Emma was published just after Jane Austen’s fortieth birthday, in December 1815, and was the last of her works to be published in her lifetime.
Pride and Prejudice
First published in 1813, and Austen’s most popular novel in her own lifetime, Pride and Prejudice has since been widely recognised as one of the finest novels in the English language. This edition features the famous peacock illustration on the front cover by Hugh Thomson.
A curious herbal, containing five hundred cuts, of the most useful plants, which are now used in the practice of physick. Engraved on folio copper plates, after drawings taken from life
First edition: 1737
When her husband’s attempt to set himself up as a printer failed, Elizabeth Blackwell determined to raise funds to release him from prison by drawing and engraving for a new herbal book, a huge undertaking that took several years. She taught herself engraving in order to do this, and hand-coloured each design. The results were initially issued in weekly instalments; the two completed volumes sold for the very considerable sum of £5.
Self-control: a novel
Third edition, 1811
When Self-control appeared in the spring of 1811, six months before Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, it was Brunton’s first novel that was the sensation of the year, an overnight bestseller, and not Austen’s. A religious tale written by a self-doubting Presbyterian, our copy is the one that belonged to Jane Austen’s brother, Edward, and was read by Jane herself.
Evelina, or, a young lady’s entrance into the world
First edition, 1778
The reputation of Frances Burney was largely established with her first novel, Evelina. Published anonymously in 1778, it is an epistolary account of a sheltered, orphaned young woman’s entrance into society, and of her experience of family. Its comedy ranges from violet practical joking reminiscent of Smollett’s fiction to witty repartee that would influence Austen.
Memoirs of the life of Mrs Elizabeth Carter, with a new edition of her poems … [edited] by the Rev. Montagu Pennington
First edition, 1807
Elizabeth Carter (1717-1806) first made her name in 1758 with her English translation of the work of the Greek philosopher Epictetus, for which she was acclaimed by Samuel Johnson as the ‘best Greek scholar in England’. Carter also published numerous essays, articles, and translations and was an influential member of the Blue Stockings Society.
The letters and works of Mrs Elizabeth Montagu
Second revised edition, 1825
Elizabeth Montagu (1718-1800) – known as ‘Queen of the Blue Stockings’ for her involvement in organising and hosting literary salons – was a celebrated Patron of the Arts and Literature. She wrote the important An Essay on the Writings and Genius of Shakespeare (1769) and was the author of many letters to leading figures of her age. Her letters were not published until after her death.
First edition, 1791
Mary Robinson wrote this first collection of poetry whilst her husband was in a debtor’s prison and began her life struggle for financial independence, needing to support herself and her infant daughter. The subscribers’ list features a great number of royal subscribers, along with Sir Joshua Reynolds, Charles Fox, and R.B. Sheridan.
The new family receipt-book
Maria Rundell’s cookery books sold many thousands of copies in the nineteenth century. Chawton House Library holds a copy of A New System of Domestic Cookery and this one: The new family receipt-book, containing eight hundred truly valuable receipts in various branches of domestic economy selected from the works of British and foreign writers of unquestionable experience and authority, and from the attested communications of scientific friends.