Brontë enthusiasts have banded together to stop Sotheby’s from auctioning off rare manuscripts.
Last month, Sotheby’s announced that a collection of rare Brontë-affiliated manuscripts, most notably a volume of 31 handwritten poems by Emily Brontë, was slated for auction along with other manuscripts by Robert Burns and Walter Scott. Now, Sotheby’s has agreed to delay their auction, as a group of British libraries and museums have announced their attempt to purchase and preserve the collection for the public. The time frame of the auction delay has not been publicly announced.
The aforementioned manuscripts are all part of a private library, the Honresfield Library, collected and kept in the 1800s by Alfred and William Law; after Alfred’s nephew, inheritor of the library, died, the collection disappeared from public view and was thought to be lost to the ages. When Sotheby’s announced the auction, Brontë fans and academics were thrilled that the Honresfield Library existed—but upset that these important documents might be sold right back into private collections, where the public couldn’t access them. Thus, eight groups—the British Library, the National Library of Scotland, the Bodleian Libraries at Oxford, the Brotherton Library at the University of Leeds, and museums dedicated to Jane Ausen, Walter Scott, Robert Burns and the Brontës—have united to raise $21 million.
Said the supergroup in a statement, “A private library of English literature of such significance has not been placed on the open market for many decades,” said the supergroup in a statement. A major and coordinated effort is needed to save this astonishingly important collection.”