THREE rare first editions by Hampshire author Jane Austen are set to fetch nearly £100,000 at auction in America today.

A copy of Emma – published in three volumes in 1816, the year before Austen’s death in Winchester at the age of 41 – is tipped to sell for up to £49,000.

Meanwhile, a copy of Austen’s 1813 masterpiece Pride and Prejudice, also published in three volumes, is valued at around £36,000.

And a first edition copy of Sense and Sensibility, published in 1811 in three volumes, could fetch around £12,000.

All three books will be auctioned at Christie’s at Rockefeller Plaza in New York today.

It was 200 years ago this year that she left Southampton for Chawton after a two-year spell,1807 to 1809, in the city.

Christie’s £36,000 estimate for the Pride and Prejudice book is a particularly ironic twist, because Austen received only £110 from the publisher, T Egerton, for the book in 1812.

The book was published in January 1813 and its first edition – of which the Christie’s copy is one – comprised 1,500 copies, at eighteen shillings (90p) a copy.

It was earlier rejected by a publisher, who hadn’t even read it.

Jane Austen was 31 when she and her widowed mother moved to Southampton from Bath in February 1807, just two years after the Battle of Trafalgar and the death of Lord Nelson in 1805.

They originally stayed in rented lodgings with Jane’s brother, Frank, a naval captain, before moving to a “commodious oldfashioned”

house in Castle Square, which was rented from the Marquess of Lansdowne and which had a view westwards across Southampton Water.

The Austens enjoyed boat trips on the Itchen to see warships being built at Northam and the gothic ruins of Netley Abbey.

Jane and her sister Cassandra attended dances in Southampton, including some at the Dolphin Hotel.