Tuesday, December 4, 2012

By the Author of 'Jane Eyre'

A while back we blogged about the first edition of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. The publisher promoted the book with the suggestion that it was written by Charlotte Bronte (rather than Anne).  Well, we just acquired the first American edition of Wuthering Heights (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1848) and find that the confusion over the Brontes extended into the United States. The title page of Wuthering Heights clearly states "By The Author of 'Jane Eyre.'"

The publisher had a good excuse. All of the Bronte novels were published under pen names: Acton, Ellis, and Currer Bell. Since this edition is pirated, Harpers had no contact with the Bronte sisters. The English publisher was also working to conflate the three "Bells." Harpers may not have known, or they may have been trying to cash in on the success of Jane Eyre which they had already brought out in a pirated edition.

"Pirated" is something of a misnomer. There was no effective international copyright law in 1848, so there were no legal impediments to Harper and Brothers printing a work originally published in England. But they did not pay a cent to the author--had they paid a royalty, one has to wonder whose name would have been on the check!

Ask for Rare PR4172.W7 1848 for Wuthering Heights and Rare PZ3.B790J for the first American Jane Eyre.

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