A tiny manuscript of 13-year-old Charlotte Brontë returns home

Published: 04/25/2022 21:02:12

Modified: 04/25/2022 21:00:47

LONDON — A miniature manuscript by 13-year-old Charlotte Bronte will be returned to her home in Yorkshire after being purchased by a charity.

The last of more than two dozen famous “little books” known to be in private hands has been bought for $1.25 million after surfacing for the first time in more than a century.

It will now be donated to the Bronte Parsonage museum in Haworth, its buyers have confirmed.

The 15-page manuscript, smaller than a playing card, is dated December 1829 and is sewn into its original brown paper covers. It measures 9.7 x 6.4 centimeters (3.8 x 2.5 inches) and contains 10 poems. Its buyers said it was “a centimeter for a centimeter, perhaps the most valuable literary manuscript ever sold”.

It was last seen at auction in 1916 in New York, where it sold for $520. His whereabouts – and even his survival – were unknown until he was unveiled in New York last week.

The buyer has now been confirmed as UK literary charity Friends of the National Libraries (FNL).

Ann Dinsdale, senior curator at the Bronte Parsonage Museum, said she was “absolutely delighted” with the news.

She said: “It’s always moving when an item belonging to the Bronte family is brought home and that last little book that comes back to where it was written when it was thought lost is very special for us.”

Miniature books created by Charlotte Brontë and her siblings as children have long fascinated Brontë scholars and fans.

Thrown out of their own resources at Haworth, where their father was curate, the four children Bronte, Charlotte, Anne, Emily and Branwell, developed a sophisticated fantasy world.

They wrote stories of adventures, dramas and verse in handmade manuscript books filled with tiny handwriting meant to look like print.

This nearby, enchanted world of their childish imaginations fueled the creation of some of the most famous and popular novels ever written, including Charlotte’s “Jane Eyre”; “Wuthering Heights” by Emily; and Anne’s “Agnes Grey” and “The Tenant of Wildfell Hall”.

The miniature manuscript, titled “A Book of Rhythms (sic) by Charlotte Brontë, Sold by No One and Printed by Herself,” is a collection of 10 poems written by 13-year-old Charlotte Brontë.

He is well known in the world of Brontë scholarship and is mentioned in Gaskell’s “The Life of Charlotte Brontë” (1857).

The titles of the 10 poems – including “The Beauty of Nature” and “Seeing the Ruins of the Tower of Babel” – have long been known, but the poems themselves have never been published, photographed, transcribed or even summaries.

New York Bookseller James Cummins and Maggs Bros. of London, who were selling on behalf of the owner, first offered the book to FNL and gave the group several weeks to raise the necessary $1.25 million.

Funds were raised from more than nine donors, including the Garfield Weston Foundation and the TS Eliot Estate.

The group also raised $20 million last year to preserve the Honresfield Library – a famous “lost” library of rare books and manuscripts relating to the Brontës, Robert Burns, Walter Scott and others – which was to be auctioned off at Sotheby’s.

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