Brontë Treasures to be Saved for the Nation Thanks to Successful Fundraising Campaign
Thanks to a successful fundraising campaign led by Friends of the National Libraries (FNL), including an exceptional donation by Sir Leonard Blavatnik, the largest of its kind ever to be made, an astonishing set of manuscripts and printed books by the Brontës has been entrusted to theBritish Library, the Brontë Parsonage Museum in Haworth, and the Brotherton Library, University of Leeds, in a new partnership that will make the works accessible to audiences across the UK.
The works form part of the Honresfield Library, created by 19th-century industrialist William Law. This exceptional collection of manuscripts and printed books has been in private hands since 1939. It’s been largely unexamined by scholars, and has now been saved in its entirety for the nation.
The works contain manuscripts in the hands of Jane Austen, Robert Burns and Sir Walter Scott. As well as a remarkable set of items relating to the Brontës, including:
- Emily Brontë’s holograph notebook of 31 poems. This is believed by many scholars to have been lost and containing annotations in Charlotte’s hand. One of the most significant and valuable items within the collection, the notebook will be reunited for the first time with the manuscript of Emily Brontë’s Gondal poetry which is also cared for by the British Library.
- The final little book to complete the second series of the Young Men’s Magazine. This little book, written by Charlotte in 1830, will now join the other five issues. They are currently held at the Brontë Parsonage Museum.
- Six additional miniature manuscripts filled with Charlotte’s tiny writing fine presentation copies of first editions of Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, Shirley, Agnes Grey and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall in their original cloth bindings.
- A manuscript collection of poems by Anne Brontë.
- Illustrated diary papers written by Emily and Anne in 1841.
- Printed treasures including Emily Brontë’s own annotated copy of the Brontës’ first publication, the exceptionally rare Poems of 1846.
- Manuscript letters by Branwell Brontë. These complement the Brotherton Library’s substantial holdings of Branwell Brontë materials which also give a unique insight into the mind of the often forgotten brother as he battled with addiction and a failed relationship with a married woman.
As well as transforming access to the Brontë manuscripts, the British Library, the Brontë Parsonage Museum and the Brotherton Library, University of Leeds, will be providing a permanent home to numerous items from the Blavatnik Honresfield Library’s large collection of printed books. These date from the 16th to the 19th century and cover a wide range of subjects. Together, the partnership will also deliver an exciting programme of engagement activities to make this outstanding collection accessible to everyone.
Rebecca York is Interim Director of the Brontë Parsonage Museum. She said: “It has been an honour to be part of the consortium to save these significant items. We have strengthened existing relationships with both the British Library and the Brotherton and formed new partnerships with other museums and libraries. By working together we have ensured that these literary treasures will be accessible to all for years to come. It is a historic moment for us all.”