A Lost Brontë Library Surfaces

Charlotte, Emily, Anne, and Branwell (born between 1816 and 1820) grew up constructing elaborate shared fictional worlds upon the edge of the West Yorkshire moors, where the Honresfield Library was formed. Alfred and William Law, two self-made mill proprietors who grew up less than 20 miles from the Bront residence in Haworth (now the Bront Parsonage Museum), began assembling it in the 1890s and finished it in the 1920s.

Heaton described the Laws’ library at Honresfield House as including “great country-house literature,” which contained a Shakespeare First Folio amongst other titles (long since sold off). They were also avid book collectors, acquiring the Bronte manuscripts from a dealer who had purchased them from Charlotte’s widower. Relatives and neighbours in Haworth often saved family artefacts, which William, a more serious collector, would buy.

Thereafter, the collection was handed to a nephew, who allowed selected scholars to view it and made facsimiles of several artefacts. He died in 1939 and the originals disappeared from public view.

The collection was “well-nigh unidentifiable” by the 1940s, according to one expert at the time. In recent years, some of the collection’s items, such as Charlotte’s writing desk, have been put up for auction. The location of the others, on the other hand, remained a mystery.

In the beginning, I thought, ‘Hang on — maybe it’s that collection?'” Heaton had a recollection of it. “Going to see it in person was an incredible experience.” As he explained it, the sellers (who desire to stay unnamed) are family members of the Laws.