The Bronte Society bought a book written by Charlotte Bronte at the age of 14 at an auction in Paris and is bringing it home.
The miniature work, called The Young Men’s Magazine, will go to the Parsonage Museum in the Brontes’ old home in Haworth, West Yorkshire. Charlotte had created the stories for her toy soldiers in an imaginary world created by the family called ‘Glass Town’.
It was bought for €600,000 (£512,970) after a fundraising campaign by the Bronte Society, with the total price including buyer’s premium settling at €780,000 (£666,790).
The work is one of six “little books” written by Charlotte, the eldest of the three sisters, in 1830. Five are known to have survived, and the Bronte Parsonage Museum already owns the other four.
Executive director of The Bronte Society, Kitty Wright, said: “We were determined to do everything we could to bring back this extraordinary ‘little book’ to the Bronte Parsonage Museum and now can’t quite believe that it will in fact be coming home to where it was written 189 years ago.
“We have been truly overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from people from all over the world backing our campaign and can’t wait to have it in place with the others and on public view to the world.”
For the principal curator of the museum, Ann Dinsdale, bringing the “unique manuscript” back home was the “absolute highlight” of her 30-year career.
“Charlotte wrote this miniscule magazine for the toy soldiers she and her siblings played with and as we walk through the same rooms they did, it seems immensely fitting that it is coming home and we would like to say an enormous thank you to everyone who made it possible.”
Part of the Young Men’s Magazine describes a murderer driven to madness by the ghosts of his victims, and how “an immense fire” burning within his head set his bed curtains aflame.
Experts at the museum say this part of the story is “a clear precursor” of a famous scene between Bertha and Edward Rochester in Jane Eyre, the novel Charlotte would publish 17 years later.
Over 1,000 people had pledged money to help buy the book, according to the society. Many celebrities including Dame Judi Dench, Dame Jacqueline Wilson and Tracy Chevalier backed the society’s efforts to raise money.
Dame Judi, who is also president of the Bronte Society, said earlier this year: “I have long been fascinated by the little books created by the Brontes 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.”