Why the high price? It is the most spectacular presentation copy of the book known to exist.
There are presentation copies (a copy of a book given to someone by the author or publisher) and then there are presentation copies. This copy is a double-whammy jaw-dropper: a presentation and an association copy - a copy owned by someone with a relationship of some nature to the author. Here, the association is about as strong as can be found.
Published in 1816, this copy of Emma - a triple-decker (three volumes) in first edition - was presented to her friend, Anne Sharp, who was the model for Mrs. Weston (the former Miss Taylor) in the novel. It is inscribed "From the author" by the publisher (on fly-leaf of volume one), and with the signature of Anne Sharp (on the fly-leaf of each volume).
The two met when Sharp became governess to Austen's niece Fanny Knight, and remained lifelong intimates. Austen drew on "my dearest Anne's" experiences in creating Mrs. Weston, the governess in this story about the adventures of a young matchmaker blind to her own perfect match.
Christiaan Jonkers said that there had been several clients from around the world who were considering the book but that he was pleased that it would remain in the U.K.
“The fact that it is the only presentation copy is also really something,” he said. It was bought by Jonkers at Bonhams in 2008 for a then-record of £180,000 ($271,294, including buyer's premium) and had subsequently been exhibited in Hong Kong, New York and San Francisco.
The rare-gigamonster end of the trade appears to be quite healthy.
Thanks to iBookcollector.