London: Smith, Elder, and Co. 1847. Three octavo volumes, modern green three-quarter crushed morocco, marbled cloth boards, raised bands, spines lettered in gilt, top edges gilt, marbled endpapers. All half-titles present, thirty-two pages of advertisements dated October 1847 (bound without publisher's catalogue fly-title) at rear of volume one, original brown publisher's cloth binding bound in at rear of each volume. Faint tidemark to lower margins of all three textblocks, and to upper right corner of textblock in Volume I. Tiny bumps to corners and spine ends, lower board of Volume III sunned along edge of spine.
First edition of Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, a landmark in the history of the English novel, one of only five hundred copies. In 1846, the three Brontë sisters issued a slim collection of poems under newly assumed names: Currer Bell (Charlotte), Ellis Bell (Emily), and Acton Bell (Anne). The self-published volume of poetry sold only two copies, but prepared the way for an extraordinary series of novels in 1847: Charlotte’s Jane Eyre, Emily’s Wuthering Heights, and Anne’s Agnes Grey, all published under the Bell pseudonyms. Jane Eyre was the breakthrough success of the three, going into a third edition by 1848, and sparking widespread debate over the true identity of the unknown “Currer Bell.” In Jane Eyre, Brontë draws on the familiar conventions of the bildungsroman, the Gothic novel, and the marriage plot to create a new kind of heroine: “I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will, which I now exert to leave you.” Jane's passionate insistence on her right to exist -- even though poor, orphaned, and plain -- became a touchstone for future writers and readers, rivalled only by Jane’s problematic narrative foil, “the madwoman in the attic.” A very good example of a classic of English literature, with none of the usual foxing, handsomely bound by Zaehnsdorf.