Borough Press has won a “hotly contested” first adult novel from YA author Bridget Collins after an eight-way auction.

The story centres on a world where bookbinders trap unwanted memories in writing and the HarperCollins imprint bought two books by the author for six-figures.

Suzie Dooré, publishing director at Borough Press, acquired British and Commonwealth rights (excluding Canada) from Sarah Ballard at United Agents. North American rights to both books also went to HarperCollins, in a pre-empt, to editor Jessica Williams at William Morrow. Borough Press and William Morrow will publish simultaneously in January 2019.

The Binding explores love, prejudice and memory in a world where bookbinders remove unwanted memories and trap them safely in writing where they can be kept from escaping. When Emmett is apprenticed to a binder, he starts to suspect his own recollections may have been tampered with.

Collins has previously written under the name of B R Collins. Her first novel, The Traitor Game (Bloomsbury), won the Branford Boase Award in 2009. Her other titles for Bloomsbury include A Trick of the DarkTyme’s End and Gamerunner.

The Tunbridge Wells-based author said: “I’m absolutely delighted that I’ll be published by The Borough Press and William Morrow. It’s been an incredibly exciting few weeks for me, and the moment I met Suzie and her team I was bowled over by their energy, enthusiasm and commitment to the book.”

She added: “It’s a privilege to be working with them and I can’t wait to get going on the final draft.”

Dooré said: “This will be The Borough Press’ event publication for Spring 2019 – as soon as I circulated the manuscript everyone here fell under Bridget’s spell. She is a truly remarkable writer, and the world and characters she has created are unforgettable. There is a pivotal moment in the middle which made me gasp out loud – it’s worthy of Fingersmith.”

Williams described Collins as a “singularly imaginative storyteller”. She said: “This novel truly has it all: mythical worldbuilding, rich historical detail, and—perhaps best of all—a love story about the extraordinary magic of books.”

Collins’ agent said her team was “blown away” by the The Binding. Ballard said: “From the moment publishers started reading The Binding and talking to me about it, it became clear that this very special book of books would encourage some wonderful publishing. We were blown away by the passion and creativity of the eight publishers bidding for it, and by none more than Suzie’s team at The Borough Press.”