A portrait of Emily Brontë drawn by her older sister, Charlotte Brontë. Photo: Culture Club/Getty Images
Rare Emily Brontë Manuscript To Be Auctioned By Sotheby’s
/ BY Kim Honey / May 31st, 2021
A handwritten manuscript of 31 Emily Brontë poems, with revisions by her sister Charlotte, are among a treasure trove of 500 literary papers, letters and first edition books scheduled for auction by Sotheby’s beginning July 2.
Known as the Honresfield Library, the collection includes works by Walter Scott and Robert Burns, but it is Emily’s poems and Charlotte’s edits – along with other Brontë ephemera like an annotated family copy of Thomas Beswick’s History of British Birds – that are drawing the most attention. The estimated value of the Brontë manuscript, written in 1844, is between $1.4 and $2.1 million. There is also a rare first edition of Wuthering Heights, in its original cloth binding, inscribed by their father, Rev. Patrick Brontë, to housekeeper Martha Brown.
The library, collected by industrialist brothers William and Alfred Law, disappeared from public view when their nephew died in the 1930s. Law family heirs are auctioning it off.
The Brontë Society is urging the British government to intervene to ensure the Honresfield Library doesn’t go to a private collector, saying it belongs in the family home – now the Brontë Parsonage Museum – in Haworth, West Yorkshire, “where they can be enjoyed by visitors, explored by scholars and shared with Brontë enthusiasts around the world for generations to come.”
The auction will also feature first-edition copies of Jane Eyre and Agnes Grey, as well as five first editions of the Jane Austen novels, including Pride and Prejudice.
“We are faced with the very real possibility that this immensely significant collection will be dispersed and disappear into private collections across the globe,” the non-profit Brontë Society stated in a Facebook post. “We are determined to save as much as we can, but due to the dramatic financial impact of the pandemic, the timing is unfortunate.”