Unpublished Bronte manuscript up for sale at antique book fair


A book smaller than a baseball card which was written by Charlotte Bronte is one of the rare pieces up for auction this weekend at what organizers call “the world’s finest antiquarian book fair,” boasting rare manuscripts and books from vendors all over the world.


The 62nd New York International Antiquarian Book Fair, put on by the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America’s (ABAA), is opening its doors again this weekend to rare book lovers at a 55,000 ft. armory hall in New York City.


On Thursday, the fair opened for preview, with the main events occurring from Friday to Sunday — a comeback event for the festival that was canceled the past two years due to the pandemic.


One of the pieces that made waves ahead of the festival is a miniature unpublished manuscript written by the famous British writer Charlotte Bronte when she was just 13 years old.


Only 15 pages long, the tiny book is hand stitched inside its original brown paper covers. It’s asking price is reportedly set at US$1.25 million, according to the BBC.


The front of the manuscript bears the text “A Book of Rhymes by Charlotte Bronte, Sold By Nobody and Printed By Herself,” in hand-inked lettering. At the bottom of the front page, the date “Dec 17, 1829” is written.


According to a press release from Maggs Bros. Ltd. and James Cummins Bookseller, the book dealers bringing the manuscript to the festival, this will be the first time that the manuscript has been on view in more than a century, since an auction in 1916 .


Previous manuscripts written by Bronte have garnered significant interest recently, with seven miniature books of hers selling for US$15 million in December 2021, the release stated.


“A BOOK OF RYHMES is well known in the world of Brontë scholarship, for a mention appears in Mrs. Gaskell’s Life of Charlotte Bronte (1857) from the transcription of Charlotte’s own handwritten catalog of the books she wrote in 1829 and 1830,” the release states. “However, the manuscript is entirely unpublished.”


Charlotte Bronte and her sisters Emily and Anne are known for their writing in the early 1800s. Charlotte’s most enduring work is Jane Eyre, a novel still read and celebrated today.


But before they wrote their famous novels, the Brontes churned out many handmade stories. In 1829, when this newly rediscovered manuscript was written, the Brontes were living in the Yorkshire village of Haworth. The sisters, along with brother Patrick Branwell, created a rich imaginary world to play in, which they wrote poems and adventure stories for, binding them in tiny hand-made books.


Bronte’s “Book of Rhymes” contains reference to Canada — one of the pieces inside the manuscript is entitled “Meditations while Journeying in a Canadian Forest,” according to the press release.


With 185 exhibitors, Bronte’s childhood writings are far from the only draw for the Book Fair this year.


Some of the other exhibits with a high price tag include a collection of more than 700 wine books and manuscripts dating from the 6th century all the way up to 2006. The collection, put together by wine maker Sean Thackery is up for US$2 million.


Although many of the books and writings for sale at the Book Fair are antiques, some still have striking relevance today — a collection worth more than US$2.1 million being shown at the fair by London dealer Peter Harrington contains more than 800 works on the history of climate change and environmentalism. The collection spans 2,000 years of writing. Called “One Hundred Seconds to Midnight,” it was curated to make the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference.


Other highlights at the festival include more than 220 books for US$135,000 that once belonged to the late singer Amy Winehouse, as well as a first edition of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s ‘The Great Gatsby’, valued at US$358,000.


And if none of that appeals, well, there’s always the album of watercolors from 1860 showing all the different types of ice cream sculptures it was possible to order from a specific chef in Austria, which is selling for US$10,000 — or the US$15,000 steal of an illustrated manuscript that is the only copy left in the world, written by a Renaissance food writer in 1505 on the dangers of eating rich foods.

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