The contents of the collection, known as the Honresfield Library collection, will be sold in three separate auctions in July. It was assembled by two Victorian industrialists, who lived quite close to the Brontë home, but it disappeared from the public eye in the 1930s. The collection contains a wide variety of largely invisible 18th- and 19th-century books, letters and manuscripts, and is now available to the highest bidder more than 150 years after the lives of the Brontë sisters.
Highlights include a handwritten manuscript of 31 poems by Emily Brontë (with notes in the margin by Charlotte), Robert Burns’ First everyday book, Walter Scott’s manuscript Rob Roy, first editions of Anne’s Wuthering Heights and Agnes Gray, and a heavily annotated copy of Bewick’s History of British Birds which Charlotte can be seen in the opening scenes of Jane Eyre).
Sotheby’s values Anne Brontë’s two books at about $280,000 to $425,000 for the couple, while the collection of Emily’s poems is expected to sell for anywhere from $1.3 to $1.8 million.
Gabriel Heaton, a specialist in English literature and historical manuscripts at Sotheby’s, said the Honresfield Library is the finest collection he has seen in 20 years, and that “The lives of these sisters are simply extraordinary. Takes you right back to the incredible moment when you had these siblings scribble in the rectory.”
While the collection’s return is exciting, not everyone is happy with the news that it’s up for auction. The Brontë Parsonage Museum issued a statement saying: “The Society believes that the rightful home for these unique and extraordinary manuscripts, which have gone unseen for a hundred years, is at the Brontë Parsonage Museum, where they can be viewed by visitors , explored by scholars and can be shared with Brontë enthusiasts around the world for generations to come. Unfortunately, we are faced with the very real possibility that this immensely important collection will be dispersed and disappear into private collections around the world.”
Wherever the collection ends up, it’s a great discovery for fans of the Brontë sisters and antique dealers alike.
via Smithsonian Magazine