The leaden skies over Haworth could not have been more atmospheric as they set to work yesterday dusting off the first editions of Emily Brontë at the beginning of her bicentenary year.
The museum which now occupies the West Riding parsonage that was home to Emily, Charlotte and Anne Brontë, closes each January to allow its collection of some 7,000 of their volumes, including several hundred first editions, to be professionally cleaned.
A task force of 50 has been put to work on the exercise, though the parsonage can only accommodate 10 at a time.
“Each book has to be inspected and cleaned,” said Ann Dinsdale, principal curator at the Parsonage Museum.
“It will all be done in time for our reopening on February 1.”
The parsonage was home to Patrick Brontë, his daughters and son Branwell, from 1820 until his death in 1861. His children all died before him. The house was where the sisters spent most of their lives and wrote the novels that would enshrine the family name.
The Brontë Society, which looks after the parsonage, will celebrate Emily’s 200th anniversary in July with a four-day festival organised with the actress and model Lily Cole as “creative partner”.
The appointment of Miss Cole, a 30-year-old Cambridge graduate and honorary doctor of letters, received a mixed reaction, with the literary scholar Nick Holland, author of books on the Brontë sisters, resigning from the Society, which, he said, should have given the role to a writer.
But other critics have defended the appointment of Miss Cole, who is making a short film for the museum about Emily Brontë’s signature work, Wuthering Heights. The film will also address women’s rights in a year that marks the centenary of women getting the vote.