We analyzed a sample of collectible books sold priced $500 or more and only 5% of the books had been written by women.
Even though female authors like Jane Austen, Agatha Christie and Virginia Woolf helped to shape our modern literary world, the collectible book business is dominated by works written by male writers. We had expected to see an imbalance but not one of such significance.
Why does this imbalance exist? The answer is reflected in the long history of publishing since the invention of the Gutenberg Press. For centuries, men wrote while women were expected to look after the home and family. The same pattern is visible in politics, business, science and many other professions.
There are simply fewer female authors of significance across the past 500 years of publishing. Many female writers wrote anonymously or privately published their work. Most simply did not even have the opportunity to become published authors.
However, the modern era has seen a gradual shift towards rectifying this imbalance. As of late, female authors have increasingly been recognized for their contributions to literature, and their works have begun to claim their rightful place in the collectible market.
According to AbeBooks’ sales data, here are the10 most collectible female authors.
Ten most collectible female authors
Her legacy is remarkable - Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, Emma, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion are all must-read novels.
Her success is all the more remarkable since she struggled with mental illness for most of her life. A Room of One's Own (1929) might be her most important work, this essay argues that women writers need their own space in a literary world dominated by men.
It’s an important modernist novel and was rejected by 12 publishers. Atlas Shrugged was published in 1957 and depicts a dystopian United States in which private businesses suffer under cumbersome laws and regulations.
Why didn’t more female authors enjoy the same sort of success as Lee in the 1960s?
Agatha paved the way for others by being so successful in a specific genre.
With Adam Bede (1859), The Mill on the Floss (1860), Silas Marner (1861), and Romola (1862-63), Evans has a legacy that is standing the test of time.
Potter was a pioneer that shaped the children’s picture book genre and the merchandising business, laying the foundation for what Disney does today.
In the 1970s and 1980s, increasing numbers of female writers enjoyed commercial success but Morrison proved a woman could be critically acclaimed for addressing the issues of race, gender and American culture.
There is also the matter of A Vindication on the Rights of Women from 1792, a work that paved the way for many women after Shelley to publish their works
Numerous publishers rejected Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone because they didn’t think anyone cared about magic and wizards, and she still needed a grant from the Scottish Arts Council to be able to write the second Harry Potter book.
Why did a female author writing in the 1990s feel it was necessary to use gender-neutral initials in her published name?