Charlotte Brontë was a mere 14 years old when she wrote some of her most prized works, a series of six “little books” that are now sought after by literature aficionados across the globe.
Written at the home which Charlotte shared with her sisters and fellow authors, Emily and Anne, and brother, Branwell, at the Parsonage in Haworth, the books document an imaginary world created by the family.
One of the tiny manuscripts, which features three intricately hand-written stories, will now be auctioned next month – and a fundraising campaign has been launched to bring it home to Yorkshire.
The book, which measures less than one-and-a-half inches by two-and-a-half inches, is of immense interest to academics, showing Charlotte’s development as a writer and revealing early themes which carry into her published work, including Jane Eyre.
-> How this picturesque packhorse bridge formed part of Yorkshire's trade routesIt came to light when it was auctioned at Sotheby’s eight years ago, although the Brontë Parsonage Museum in Haworth was outbid by a now non-operational investment scheme.
The Brontë Society’s executive director, Kitty Wright, revealed that the book is expected to fetch at least £650,000 and applications for funding to trusts and foundations have been undertaken for months.
She added: “This extraordinary manuscript slipped through our fingers in 2011, so we are especially determined to make the most of this second opportunity to bring it home to Haworth.
“This is the final and public phase of our campaign and we urge lovers of literature everywhere to support us now, so that we can go to the auction with a competitive bid and prevent the little book from disappearing into a private collection.”
Ann Dinsdale, the museum’s principal curator, added: “If we are successful, it would be one of the most important things to happen in the 30 years I’ve worked at the Parsonage – a real highlight.”
-> £70,000 to repair a clock: This is how much it will cost to restore Wentworth Woodhouse to gloryThe manuscript, called The Young Men’s Magazine, has more than 4,000 hand-written words in a meticulously folded and stitched magazine. It was one of a series of six booklets, of which five are known to survive. It has remained in private ownership since it left Haworth after the deaths of the Brontës.
The book up for auction is the fifth in the sequence, and as the Brontë Parsonage Museum already holds the other four, the acquisition of the unpublished work would complete a world class collection.
Dame Judi Dench, the York-born actor who is the president of the Brontë Society, said: “It’s very moving to think of 14-year-old Charlotte creating this particular little book at home in Haworth Parsonage.
“I hope that everyone will help the Brontë Society to bring it back to Yorkshire where it belongs.”
The book will be sold at Drouot in Paris on November 18.
Anyone wishing to support to the fundraising campaign can call the museum on 01535 642323 or visit https://www.bronte.org.uk/support-us/donate