But now handwritten treasures of Yorkshire’s most cherished literary family, the Brontës, may finally return to their former home in Haworth – if a fundraising appeal is successful.
A notebook of poems handwritten by Wuthering Heights author Emily Brontë, a diary paper written by Anne and Emily Brontë, the family’s copy of Bewick’s A History of British Birds, seven miniature manuscripts by Jane Eyre creator Charlotte Brontë, and many letters form the core of the Honresfield collection, which once belonged to Victorian industrialists William and Alfred Law.
The Brontë Society has launched a campaign to raise £25,000 before the end of October to stop the treasures from being split up and falling into the hands of private collectors.
Rebecca Yorke, interim director of the Brontë Parsonage Museum, said, “After lying undiscovered for so many years, it is only right that these invaluable Brontë works return to Yorkshire where they can be enjoyed by local residents and the people who flock to the sisters’ home county from all over the world.
“The Brontë Society is thrilled to have the chance to save this incredibly rare collection and bring it back home where it will be enjoyed by so many, and we ask that anyone who is able to help us reach our £25,000 target to please do so as soon as possible, as there is only a short amount of time left to raise the funds required.”
The Society has joined with other museums, literary houses and libraries across the country to save the collection, led by the Friends of the National Libraries, having been given the opportunity to do by Sotheby’s.
Some £15m is needed to purchase the whole collection, which also includes works and manuscripts by manuscripts by Robert Burns, Walter Scott, Jane Austen, Elizabeth Gaskell and William Shakespeare.
Ann Dinsdale, principal curator of the Brontë Parsonage in Haworth, recently had the opportunity to see and handle the manuscripts.
She said: “It was an incredibly moving experience, just incredible.
“Seeing that material laid out on a table in front of us – it brought tears to my eyes. It’s probably the most important literary collection that is still in private hands.
“It has such amazing treasures mainly connected to the North of England, so it’s really important that this rare material belongs in this country, to all of us.
“The plan is that we will be able to save it for the nation.”
If the fundraiser is successful, the Brontë collection will be split between the Parsonage at Haworth, which operates as a museum dedicated to the family, the British Library and the Brotherton Library at the University of Leeds.