April 27, 2022
Lost Charlotte Brontë manuscript sold for $1.25 million
by Nikki Griffiths
Best known for her classic Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë’s juvenilia remains a neglected but significant part of her literary canon. From childhood she was writing stories and poems, alongside and often in collaboration with her siblings Branwell, Emily and Anne. Now, one of her early manuscripts, thought lost forever, has been found.
“A Book of Ryhmes [sic] by Charlotte Bronte, Sold by Nobody, and Printed by Herself,” is a collection of ten poems written by 13-year-old Charlotte in 1829. It was last seen at auction in 1916 in New York, selling for $520 before disappearing. Only now has it suddenly once again remerged – the last of six miniatures to finally be rediscovered.
Smaller than a playing card, the 15-page manuscript measures 3.8in x 2.5in (9.7cm x 6.4cm). The poems have never been published or transcribed before, although experts have long known of the titles of the poems themselves, including Theres Beauty in Nature and On Seeing The Ruins of The Tower of Babylon.
The manuscript was bought by Friends of the National Libraries (FNL), a charity focusing on saving the UK’s written and printed heritage, giving grants and fundraising to support archives, libraries and collections. Chairman of the FNL, Geordie Greig, said, as reported by the Guardian:
“Friends of the National Libraries had the daunting task of raising $1.25m in just two weeks.
“It is due to wonderfully generous donors that FNL did raise this sum to buy this rarest of manuscripts and return it to its rightful home.“Saving Charlotte Brontë’s little book is a giant gain for Britain… To return this literary treasure to the Brontë Parsonage where it was written is important for scholars and also students studying one of our greatest women writers.”
We are thrilled to have been able to save this miniature treasure for the nation and to be donating it to @BronteParsonage , where it can be seen, studied and enjoyed by everyone. Renewed thanks to all our generous funders, particularly lead donor @WestonFdn. https://t.co/3R7GuwPBte
— Friends of the National Libraries (FNL) (@FNL313) April 26, 2022
Nikki Griffiths is the managing director of Melville House UK.