Knight Collection

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The Knight Collection at Chawton House

The Library at Chawton House is home to a collection of early editions of works by women, mostly in English, and mostly within the period 1600-1830. Many of these works are rare and in some cases unique. The Library is also home to the Knight Collection, which is the private library belonging to the Knight family, the owners of Chawton House for over 400 years.

The Knight Collection was compiled over generations, with books dating from the early 1500s, though the majority of the collection dates from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and includes various books with annotations.

Jane Austen’s brother Edward, was one of the previous owners of this collection, and thus it was a library known to and used by Jane Austen herself. The collection includes Fordyce’s Sermons that is referred to in Pride and Prejudice, among other such gems. There have been many changes to this collection since 1900 but it remains a fascinating example of a country house library; it is now on loan to Chawton House from Richard Knight.

It is this collection of about 500 books that remains from the original Godmersham Park Library that Edward Austen had catalogued in 1818, and the subsequent merge with the library collection at the Chawton House estate. Any of the original books found in the 1818 Godmersham catalogue that the Reading with Austen project is seeking to locate and return will be part of the Chawton Library collection, not the Knight Collection, which as noted is still privately owned.

You can read more about it here on the Chawton House website and find links to a listing of works in the Knight Collection: https://chawtonhouse.org/the-library/library-collections/the-knight-collection/

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James Fordyce. Sermons to Young Women. 1775. Chawton House, Knight Collection.

Text and images, courtesy of Chawton House.

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