When The Jane Austen Centre in Bath was first set up, in May 1999, we recognised the need not only to establish ourselves as a popular tourist attraction, or even as an authoritative body on Jane Austen, but more importantly, we believed one of our aims should be to actively promote reading, making literature appear more accessible and books more readily available.
Our latest figures show we have more than achieved this. Working in the Centre’s small but well-stocked gift and book shop puts me in the perfect position to identify our visitor’s levels of interest in Jane Austen. Where we were expecting our average visitor to be a real Jane Austen enthusiast, who had read all the novels and wanted to know a bit more about the woman behind the writing, we were wrong. What we are in fact seeing are an increasing number of visitors who know the name, but not the books, who may have seen one or two of the films, but that’s about it. With this in mind, it is with great satisfaction that we can report our book sales figures.
So far this year, our little shop has sold over 12,000 books, our biggest sellers within that total being 1182 copies of Northanger Abbey and 1127 copies of Persuasion. This is largely due to the Bath connections with those two novels, and our tendency to promote them over the other titles. We have also managed to sell a staggering 2009 copies of ‘The History of England by a Partial, Prejudiced and Ignorant Historian’ a small pamphlet publication, of a piece written by Jane when she was 15 and illustrated by her sister Cassandra. This book is being bought partly by newcomers to Jane’s writings, and partly by those who have read her 6 main novels and were unaware of there being other works. This just goes to show what a fantastic job we must be doing, inspiring all those people to read and appreciate the works of Jane Austen.
Jane Austen Centre shop manager Clare Hutton (2011) Enjoyed this article? Visit our giftshop and escape into the world of Jane Austen.