The tiny manuscript of 13-year-old Charlotte Bronte returns to Yorkshire


The last of more than two dozen famous ‘little books’ known to be in private hands was bought by a charity in April for $1.25million (£973,000) after first surfacing for more than a century.

Its buyers, UK literary charity Friends of National Libraries (FNL), donated the book to the Bronte Parsonage Museum in Haworth, where it is now on display after returning this week.

The 15-page manuscript, smaller than a playing card, is dated December 1829 and is sewn into its original brown paper covers.

It measures 3.8 inches x 2.5 inches and contains 10 poems.

Its buyers said it was “a centimeter for a centimeter, perhaps the most valuable literary manuscript ever sold”.

It was last seen at auction in 1916 in New York, where it sold for $520.

Its whereabouts – and even its survival – were unknown until it was unveiled in New York earlier this year.

Curator Sarah Laycock uses a magnifying glass to inspect Charlotte Bronte’s last miniature manuscript book known to be in private hands, as it is displayed after its return to the Bronte Parsonage Museum in Haworth, Keighley, West Yorkshire, once the home of the Bronte Family Photo: Danny Lawson/PA

At the time, Ann Dinsdale, senior curator at the Bronte Parsonage Museum, said she was “absolutely delighted” to hear that the book would return to where it was written.

She said: “It’s always moving when an item belonging to the Bronte family is brought home and that last little book that comes back to where it was written when it was thought lost is very special for us.”

Miniature books created by Charlotte Brontë and her siblings as children have long fascinated Brontë scholars and fans.

Thrown out of their own resources at Haworth, where their father was curate, the four children Bronte, Charlotte, Anne, Emily and Branwell, developed a sophisticated fantasy world.

They wrote stories of adventures, dramas and verse in handmade manuscript books filled with tiny handwriting meant to look like print.

This nearby, enchanted world of their childhood imagination fueled the creation of some of the most famous and popular novels ever written, including Charlotte’s Jane Eyre; Emily’s Wuthering Heights; and Agnes Gray of Anne and the tenant of Wildfell Hall.

The miniature manuscript, titled A Book Of Rhythms By Charlotte Bronte, Sold By Nobody, And Printed By Herself, is a collection of 10 poems written by 13-year-old Charlotte Bronte.

He is well known in the world of Bronte scholarship and is mentioned in Elizabeth Gaskell’s The Life Of Charlotte Bronte (1857).

The titles of the 10 poems – including The Beauty of Nature and Seeing the Ruins of the Tower of Babel – have long been known, but the poems themselves have never been published, photographed, transcribed or even summarized.

James Cummins Bookseller of New York and Maggs Bros of London, who were selling on behalf of the owner, first offered the book to FNL and gave them several weeks to raise the necessary $1.25 million.

Funds were raised from more than nine donors, including the Garfield Weston Foundation and the TS Eliot Estate.


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