Charlotte Brontë's Lost Collection of Poems Resurfaces 100 Years After Vanishing—and Sells for $1.25 Million
Charlotte Brontë is best known for her book Jane Eyre, but before she was a well-known English novelist and poet she was a 13-year-old girl who sewed her poems into a miniature makeshift manuscript with a needle and thread. The book of Brontë's unpublished writings was lost to the public for more than a century, but it has since resurfaced and recently sold to an unknown buyer for $1.25 million.
James Cummins Bookseller partnered with London's Maggs Bros. for the sale, which offered the playing card-sized document on behalf of a private owner. The book of rhymes was sold at the New York Antiquarian Book Fair where it was kept on display until April 24. The sale is notable as the collection of poems was last seen publicly when it sold for $520 in New York in 1916. It was rediscovered in a private collection inside an envelope hiding in the pages of a 19th-century schoolbook, Smithsonian Magazine reports.
The 15-page book, which Brontë coined "A Book of Ryhmes [sic] by Charlotte Brontë, Sold by Nobody, and Printed by Herself" contains 10 poems never before seen by the public. The manuscript dates back to December 1829 and is stitched in its original brown paper covers. Brontë gives credit for the poems to the imaginary authors "Marquis of Duro & Lord Charles Wellesley," then writes that they are "actually written by me." It concludes with an apologetic inscription on the back that reads "The following are attempts at rhyming of an inferior nature it must be acknowledged but they are nevertheless my best."
The creative manuscript comes as no surprise when you consider the unique imagination of its author. According to a release by the bookseller, Brontë and her siblings spent much of their youth developing a sophisticated imaginary world with a nation called Angria and a city called Glasstown whose inhabitants included the childrens' heroes. "They wrote adventure stores, dramas, and verse in hand-made manuscript books filled with tiny handwriting intended to resemble print," the release states.
The small manuscripts written by the Brontë children have since fallen into private hands, making their way into collections around the world. The Haworth Parsonage Museum, which Smithsonian Magazine says maintains the siblings' childhood home and the largest library of their work, have purchased many of the valuable manuscripts at high price-points.