A Book of Ryhmes by Charlotte Brontë, Sold by Nobody and Printed by Herself has returned home to the Brontë Parsonage Museum in Haworth, West Yorkshire after it was thought lost.
Measuring just 10cm by 6cm, the book contains ten unpublished poems written by Brontë in 1829 at the age of just 13 years old.
It is one of many ‘little books’ that Branwell Brontë and his three sisters, Charlotte, Emily, and Anne, wrote for his toy soldiers when they were children. It was from these stories that ideas for novels such as Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall came.
Charlotte Brontë’s manuscript was bought for $1.25m by a British charity, the Friends of the National Libraries (FNL), who were founded in 1931 with a goal of helping to protect the UK’s literary and cultural history.
FNL have commented on their purchase of the ‘little book’ in New York:
The main benefactors of the literary exchange include the estate of T.S. Eliot and the Garfield Weston Foundation.
The Guardian have described the book as “the most valuable literary manuscript ever sold”, and BBC News have reported that they believe the sale is set “to be the highest ever for a female author”. The previous record was set just last year when a first edition of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein sold for $1.17m.
FNL have donated the artefact to the Brontë Society, whose museum in West Yorkshire has the largest collection of Brontë manuscripts in the world.
Ann Dinsdale, the Brontë Parsonage Museum’s chief curator, said that she was “absolutely thrilled” by FNL’s donation in a recent statement.
The book is set to be put on public display and also digitalised, ensuring that poems that have gone unseen since they were written are accessible to readers everywhere.
Words by Morgan Hartley
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