Home 5 News 5 The “lost library” of British literature That is Set to Fetch Millions of Pounds

The “lost library” of British literature That is Set to Fetch Millions of Pounds

by | May 31, 2021 | News

A book of handwritten poems by Emily Bronte, first editions of Jane Austen novels and a manuscript by Scotland’s Robert Burns is to be auctioned off at Sotheby’s.

The contents of the Honresfield Library, which has re-emerged after almost 100 years in obscurity, will go up for sale at three separate auctions.

The book of Emily’s poems, which feature hand-scrawled notes and corrections by her sister and fellow author Charlotte, is expected to fetch between £800,000 and £1.2m alone.

A first edition of her famous novel Wuthering Heights could fetch between £200,000 and £300,000. There will also be a letter from Charlotte to her publisher George Smith, and notes between Emily and her sister Anne.

The Bronte sisters, who lived in 19th-century England, were all established authors in their own right, though, as was custom at the time, wrote under male pen names. Charlotte was most famous for the book Jane Eyre, and Anne wrote The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. Emily Brontë was largely unknown as a writer during her lifetime, but wrote her passionate love story Wuthering Heights in 1847 before dying of tuberculosis a year later.

An annotated Brontë family copy of Bewick’s History of British Birds – famously referenced in the opening pages of Jane Eyre by Emily’s sister Charlotte – could go for between £30,000 – £50,000, estimates suggest.

The library also includes a compendium of poems, notes, personal letters and ideas put together by the Scottish bard Robert Burns, when he was an unknown 24-year-old.

The library was originally compiled by Rochdale mill-owners Alfred and William Law, who were brought up less than 20 miles from Haworth in Yorkshire where the Brontës lived. The brothers lived together at Honresfield House near Rochdale, which had been built for William in 1879.

When Alfred died – William having predeceased him – his nephew, also called Alfred Law, inherited his estate including the library. But the library disappeared into obscurity after the younger Alfred died in 1939.

The collection of more than 500 items will go on sale at three separate auctions set to take place this year and next.  Highlights from the auction will be shown at exhibitions in London, Edinburgh and New York, though dates have yet to be confirmed, with the first sale set to take place this summer.

The first auction will be held online with bidding open from Friday, July 2, to Tuesday, July 13, with following auctions expected to run into next year.

Other items in the Honresfield Library include:

Jane Austen first editions, including Emma, Northanger Abbey, Persuasion, Pride and Prejudice

A copy of Don Quixote printed in 1620 for Shakespeare publisher Edward Blounte

An annotated copy of Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poems showing his changes

The complete manuscript for Sir Walter Scott’s 19th century novel Rob Roy

Little-seen letters to and from the likes of novelist Elizabeth Gaskell, Hartley Coleridge (son of poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge), and George Smith – publisher and champion of The Bells, which was the Bronte’s secret pseudonym

Works from Homer, Ovid, the Grimm Brothers, Montaigne, Ann Radcliffe, Horace Walpole, Charles Dickens and Mary Wollstonecraft also make an appearance

 

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