See the Misspelled Royalty Check Jane Austen Got for Emma
Jane Austen, it seems, wasn’t all that picky about how you spelled her name. One of the English author’s royalty checks is going on display at the University of Oxford, and it shows that she (rightfully) cared more about getting paid than about how her name appeared on the check.
Part of "Which Jane Austen?," an upcoming exhibition at the Bodleian Libraries, the check came from John Murray II, her high-powered publisher. Murray also published works by Lord Byron and Sir Walter Scott. He was either a bad speller or not a very attentive publisher, making a royalty check out to “Miss Jane Austin.” (Although to be fair, standardized spelling wasn't really a thing until the 19th century.)
She, in turn, signed the back of the £38 (plus 18 shillings and one pence) check as “Jane Austin” too, which the Bodleian Libraries says is a sign of “how important her writing income was to her.” According to the Bank of England’s inflation calculator, the sum would be worth about £3400 ($4385) today.
It’s fitting that some of Austen’s earnings would be on display as part of the celebrations honoring the 200th anniversary of her death this year, since she was a writer obsessed with money and its effects on families and romance. Austen grew up in a family with limited funds and never became rich off the novels that would make her a household name. But at least she got some royalties for Emma, unlike for Pride and Prejudice, which she gave up the copyright to in exchange for £110 upfront.
The Emma check—which subtracted the losses the publisher took on printing the second edition of Mansfield Park—would be the only check Murray sent her during her lifetime.