THE writing on the slip of paper is so small it is difficult to make out the words without using a magnifying glass.
But despite its size, this tiny manuscript is expected to fetch thousands of pounds when it goes under the hammer next month due to the fact it was penned by one of Britain’s most famous literary heroines, Charlotte Bronte.
The manuscript of Charlotte’s poem, I’ve been wandering in the greenwoods, which she wrote when she was just 13 years old, is signed C Brontë and dated by her December 14, 1829.
The poem is being sold in Part I of the sale of the Roy Davids Collection Part III: Poetry: Poetical Manuscripts and Portraits of Poets at Bonhams, in London on April 10, and comes with a guide price of between £40,000 and £45,000.
That sounds a lot of money for something that is smaller than a CD, but manuscripts of Charlotte Bronte poems are extremely rare, with only two others sold at auction in the past 40 years.
Which is why Bonhams is expecting a great deal of interest in the auction. “The Brontes exercise an enduring fascination not just in Britain but across the world,” a spokesman said.
“This poem written by Charlotte shows her astonishing precocity and throws light into the closed and intense world of the siblings where writing was simply a way of life.
“It is always special to see and hold original manuscripts – it’s the most direct connection with the writer we’ll ever have – which is why they are so sought after.”
Although Charlotte Brontë wrote around 200 poems during her lifetime, the vast majority of the manuscripts are in institutions. It is thought that as few as four may still be in private hands.
The Brontë children were famously precocious and started writing at an early age, producing literary magazines for their private enjoyment.
I’ve been wandering in the greenwoods appeared in The Young Man’s Intelligencer which had been edited by Charlotte’s brother Branwell until 1829 when she took over.
Scholar and collector Roy Davids, who is selling the manuscript, believes it is a genuine rarity.
“The Brontes are among the most important figures in English literature and to have any manuscript in Charlotte’s handwriting is not common, especially at such a young age.
“To find a poem by Charlotte Bronte is particularly rare and that is why it’s so significant,” he says.
The manuscript only measures three inches by three inches, but writing in tiny letters on small scraps of paper was something all the Bronte children were used to because in those days paper was both expensive and in short supply.
They were also short-sighted so, while they would have been able to see what they were writing, their work would have been illegible to their father and their aunt who lived with the family following their mother’s death in 1821.
Mr Davids, an auctioneer and collector for the past 40 years, bought the manuscript more than 20 years ago in the United States and decided the time had come to sell it.
“I’m not going to materially add anything to this collection of poetical manuscripts and there comes a time to move it on for someone else to treasure.
“That’s how collections work. I think if everything was just in libraries there wouldn’t be collectors and that would be sad.”
He expects there will be a great deal of interest in Charlotte’s poem from all over the world when it goes up for sale.
“The last thing by the Brontes that sold about a year ago was a minuscule notebook and that made over £900,000,” he says.
That went to a museum in Paris, proof that the enduring appeal of Haworth’s famous literary clan stretches beyond our own shores.
“The Brontes are right up there in the pantheon of English literature and that is why their work is so valuable.”