Crowdfunding the Bid for €700,000 Charlotte Brontë’s ‘Little Book’

Dame Judi Dench, actress and the president of the Brontë Society, supported the Society’s call to crowdfund the institution’s bid for the second issue of Charlotte Brontë’s Young Men’s Magazine at an auction in November.

Young Men’s Magazine was a six-issue miniature publication authored and handwritten by teenage Charlotte Brontë. Only five out of six miniature books are known to survive. The second volume is scheduled to be auctioned at Drouot in Paris this November. It already made the news in 2011, when it was sold for the equivalent of more than $1 million at Sotheby’s. Then the Brontë Society was outbid by the Paris Musée des Lettres et Manuscrits — an institution that closed its doors several years ago due to the alleged connection of its owner and his company to a Ponzi scheme. Now all of the 136,000 original manuscripts and letters for the Museum’s collection are being sold by four auction houses at a series of auctions.

While in 2011, the estimate was £200,000-300,000, the book was sold for £690,850. However, considering the participation of the Paris Musée des Lettres et Manuscrits, the price may have been a bit inflated. The current estimate (€600,000-800,000) is quite similar to the previous auction’s result as the British pound has weakened since 2011.

The Little books were written by Charlotte Brontë in 1830 when she was 14. The second issue of the Young Men’s Magazine measures 35mm x 61mm. It is 20-pages long and includes three stories:

  • A letter From Lord Charles Wellesley
  • The Midnight Song
  • Journal Of A Frenchman

The book has a brown paper cover and contains more than 4,000 minuscule hand-written words. The miniature volume is meticulously folded and stitched. The second issue of the Young Men’s Magazine describes a murderer driven to madness after being haunted by his victims, and how ‘an immense fire’ burning in his head causes his bed curtains to set alight. A “clear precursor of a famous scene between Bertha and Edward Rochester in Jane Eyre, which Charlotte would publish 17 years later”, said the Society’s experts.

Ann Dinsdale, principal curator at the Brontë Parsonage Museum: “These little books are enormously important to both visitors and scholars.  The four that we are fortunate enough to own are some of our most popular exhibits, and to see this volume of The Young Men’s Magazine reunited with the others in our collection would be wonderful.  If we are successful, it would be one of the most important things to happen in the 30 years I’ve worked at the Parsonage, a real highlight.”

Judi Dench, president of the Brontë Society: “I have long been fascinated by the little books created by the Brontës when they were children.  These tiny manuscripts are like a magical doorway into the imaginary worlds they inhabited and also hint at their ambition to become published authors.  It’s very moving to think of 14-year-old Charlotte creating this particular little book at home in Haworth Parsonage, and I hope that everyone will help the Brontë Society to bring it back to Yorkshire where it belongs.”

Kitty Wright, executive director of The Brontë Society: “This extraordinary manuscript slipped through our fingers in 2011, so we are especially determined to make the most of this second opportunity to bring it home to Haworth.  It is expected to sell for at least £650,000, and we’ve been working hard for many months applying to trusts and foundations. This is the final and public phase of our campaign, and we urge lovers of literature everywhere to support us now so that we can go to the auction with a competitive bid and prevent the little book from disappearing into a private collection.”

The auction will take place at Drouot in Paris on Monday, November 18.

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