An auction of the Brontë “lost library” has been postponed by Sotheby’s.
The contents of the “lost” Honresfield Library had been rediscovered after almost a century and was due to be put up for auction.
Poems by the Brontës were expected to reach £1.2m at auction, with one first edition of Wuthering Heights alone believed to be worth between £200,000 and £300,000. Along with poems and a novel, an annotated copy of Bewick’s History of British Birds that belonged to the Brontë family was also estimated to be sold for between £30,000 – £50,000.
Sotheby’s has since decided to postpone the auction to give the Bronte Parsonage and British Library time to raise the £15m needed to stop it falling into the hands of a private collector.
Campaigners had been asking for the works to be kept at their rightful home at the Brontë museum in West Yorkshire, and are “profoundly grateful” to Sotheby’s for postponing the sale.
The Bronte Society said the “unique and extraordinary” manuscripts belonged in the museum situated at the sisters’ former home in Haworth, West Yorkshire.
“Regrettably, we are faced with the very real possibility that this immensely significant collection will be dispersed and disappear into private collections across the globe,” the society said.
“We are determined to save as much as we can, but due to the dramatic financial impact of the pandemic, the timing is unfortunate.”
Upon hearing of the auction, Friends of the National Libraries (FNL) launched an appeal and and began discussions with philanthropists and sourced public funds in an attempt to raise the cash needed.
Others helping to raise the funds include the National Library of Scotland, the Bodleian Libraries in Oxford and Jane Austen’s House in Hampshire.
Sotheby’s has been thanked for giving the institutions time to try to “preserve the entire library as a collection to be allocated to libraries around the UK for the benefit of the public”.
Dr Gabriel Heaton, Sotheby’s English literature and historical manuscripts specialist, said: “Sotheby’s has a great history of working together with private collectors and institutions and we are pleased to play our part in this potential outcome for this great library.”