Thanks to a successful fundraising campaign led by Friends of the National Libraries (FNL), including an exceptional donation by Sir Leonard Blavatnik, the largest of its kind ever to be made, an astonishing set of manuscripts and printed books by the Brontës has been entrusted to us, the Brontë Parsonage Museum in Haworth, and the Brotherton Library, University of Leeds, in a new partnership that will make the works accessible to audiences across the UK.
The works form part of the Honresfield Library, created by 19th-century industrialist William Law, and the collection, which has been inaccessible since 1939 and largely unexamined, includes:
- Emily Brontë’s holograph notebook of 31 poems, believed by many to have been lost and containing annotations in Charlotte’s hand. One of the most significant and valuable items within the collection, the notebook will be reunited for the first time with the manuscripts of Emily Brontë’s Gondal poetry already in our collection
- seven of Charlotte Brontë’s famous ‘little books’
- a manuscript collection of poems by Anne Brontë
- printed treasures including Emily Brontë’s own annotated copy of the Brontës’ first publication, the exceptionally rare Poems of 1846, and fine presentation copies of first editions of their novels in their original cloth bindings.
As well as transforming access to the Brontë manuscripts, we – along with the Brontë Parsonage Museum and the Brotherton Library – will be providing a permanent home to numerous items from the Honresfield Library’s large collection of printed books, which date from the 16th to the 19th century and cover a wide range of subjects. We will also be working with our partners on activities to make the collection accessible to everyone.
Along with the other beneficiary libraries, we are immensely grateful to FNL for their leadership of the fundraising campaign, and in particular to lead donor Sir Leonard Blavatnik whose contribution is the largest ever donation given in the UK by an individual for a literary treasure. In recognition of his generosity, the collection will now be known as the Blavatnik Honresfield Library.
Image: Charlotte Brontë manuscripts. Image courtesy of Sotheby's