A Lost Brontë Library SurfacesBreaking News
tags: literature, English literature, primary sources, British Literature, Bronte Sisters
Brontë artifacts have a way of making dramatic reappearances.
In 2011, a miniature book created by the 14-year-old Charlotte Brontë prompted a bidding war that climbed past $1 million. In 2016, the Brontë Parsonage Museum announced that it tracked down a book filled with doodles and inscriptions by the Brontë children (including an unknown poem by Charlotte) that had once survived a shipwreck.
And now, a trove of Brontë family manuscripts — all but unseen for a century — will be auctioned by Sotheby’s as part of what the auction house is billing as the sale of a legendary “lost library” of British literature treasures.
The Honresfield Library, a private collection assembled by two Victorian industrialists that vanished from public view in the 1930s, contains more than 500 manuscripts, letters, rare first editions and other artifacts from a number of canonical authors, including the manuscripts of Walter Scott’s “Rob Roy” and Robert Burns’s “First Commonplace Book.”
But it is the Brontë material — based on hoopla surrounding past Brontë auctions, and the estimates for this one — that is likely to cause the biggest stir. Highlights, which will be exhibited at Sotheby’s in New York from June 5 to 9, include a handwritten manuscript of Emily Brontë’s poems, with pencil edits by Charlotte. It carries an estimate of $1.3 million to $1.8 million.
The trove also includes family letters, inscribed first editions and other relics that offer a glimpse into life in the Brontë household, like the family’s heavily annotated copy of Bewick’s “History of British Birds” (which features in the opening scenes of “Jane Eyre”).
Gabriel Heaton, Sotheby’s specialist in English literature and historical manuscripts, called the Honresfield Library the finest he had seen in 20 years, and the Brontë cache the most important to come to light in a generation.
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