‘Priceless’ Brontë Manuscripts Could Be Lost to Private Buyer, Experts Warn | Emily brontë


The Brontë Society is calling for immediate government intervention to prevent the “priceless” literary treasures of the Honresfield Library, which includes a rare notebook of Emily Brontë poetry, from disappearing back into private hands at auction.

The Honresfield collection of over 500 historical literary objects vanished from public view in 1939 and was only seen by one or two academics in the following years. The collection includes the only manuscript manuscript of some of Emily Brontë’s best-known poems, with annotations by her sister Charlotte, as well as letters and books from the Brontë family and important manuscripts by Robert Burns and Walter Scott.

It was announced earlier this week that the library, which was set up by brothers Alfred and William Law, who grew up near the Brontë family home in Haworth, is due to be auctioned by Sotheby’s later this year, Emily’s poems valued at between £ 800,000 and £ 1.2million.

But the Trustees of the Brontë Society are calling on MPs to act to save the collection “unique” for the nation. Describing the library as “unrivaled in its collections of literary treasures from northern Britain,” the company wrote to all northern MPs and elected mayors warning that Sotheby’s auctions will see “trophies” acquired ” at prices beyond the reach of UK museums and libraries. Many of which are likely to “disappear into the coffers of international private investors”.

“This calculated act of dispersal of heritage does not take into account questions of conservation, conservation, access to researchers or public utility,” writes President Trish Gurney. “The Honresfield Library is not just paper and ink, but a cultural asset.”

Oxford University professor Kathryn Sutherland, who works with the company, warned that “without immediate government intervention in the public interest, a national collection hidden for 100 years will soon be scattered piecemeal across the world – maybe never to be seen ”.

Sutherland suggested that the library would be “the perfect founding collection for the planned developments at the British Library North”, which is being planned for Leeds.

“We urge its purchase intact and complete in the national interest. Kept as a cohesive collection, it will reward scholarly research and provide pleasure to all literature enthusiasts for the next 100 years, ”said Sutherland.

Ann Dinsdale, the senior curator of the Brontë Parsonage Museum where the family lived, described the manuscripts as invaluable.

“My ideal would be for everything to be kept together and for it to be in the Brontë Parsonage Museum, but the main thing is that it goes into a public collection, where it can be properly maintained and where it will be available. for generations to come, ”Dinsdale said.

The Brontë Society, which was founded in 1893, also calls on the government to establish minimum standards of conservation and conservation for items of national literary heritage that are privately owned.

Dinsdale said she found it heartbreaking to think of the collection going into private hands. “I’ve heard of wealthy collectors framing literary objects and hanging them on walls where they were exposed to light,” she said. “There is nothing to govern how these things are taken care of.”

Sotheby’s said that while the material offered for sale had always been privately owned, it had been “fully published and therefore the content is freely available to those interested in the Brontës.”

“The decision was therefore taken to offer it up for auction, while ensuring that the institutions concerned, including the Parsonage de Brontë, are notified in advance of the proposed sale in order to give them time to raise funds. if they wish to acquire the originals, “said in a statement. “It’s also worth pointing out that when material like this is acquired by collectors abroad, it often ends up in public view, as an ambassador of British culture.

The auction house added that “private collectors can be great custodians of this material, and these objects have been very well cared for by a private family for almost 130 years. Often, private collectors are very happy to allow researchers access to their holdings, and in this case there has been some access to researchers throughout the long line of ownership.

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