On Twitter, the museum in Haworth, West Yorkshire announced: “We did it. Charlotte’s Little Book is coming home. Massive thank you to everyone, especially National Heritage Memorial Fund, our amazing staff and most of all, You. We couldn’t have done it without you.”
At the November 18 auction, the manuscript was hammered down at €600,000 (£512,092) (plus 26.37% buyer's premium), against a €600,000-800,000 estimate, the celebrated copy of The Young Men's Magazine, Volume 2 was last sold at Sotheby’s in London nine years ago for £690,850. It was bought by the Paris Musée des Lettres et Manuscrits, setting a record for a Brontë manuscript at auction.
However, the museum closed in 2014 after its owner, Gérard Lhéritier, and his company Aristophil were investigated for allegedly running an €800m Ponzi scheme.
The contents (136,000 original manuscripts and letters) are being sold by four Paris auction houses (Aguttes, Artcurial, Drouot Estimations and Ader) in the hope of returning some money to 18,000 investors.
Written in minute characters in imitation of print, the tiny hand-sewn book measuring 1.4 × 2.4in (3.5 × 6.1cm) is one of a series of ‘magazines’ created by siblings Charlotte and Branwell Brontë from January 1829-August 1830.
Like others in the series, the prose and poetry is set in the imaginary west African settlement of Glass Town with the characters based on a set of 12 wooden soldiers bought by Rev Brontë for Branwell in 1826.
The books (the series of the previous year was titled Blackwood’s Young Men’s Magazines) were supposed to have been produced and read by the toy soldiers, hence their miniature size.
Charlotte produced six copies of The Young Men's Magazine, Volume 2 and four of them are already in the Brontë Parsonage Museum.
“Outpouring of support”
Kitty Wright, executive director of The Brontë Society, said: “We were determined to do everything we could to bring back this extraordinary ‘little book’ to the Brontë 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.”
The Brontë Society was able to acquire the manuscript thanks to a grant from the National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF).
It also received support from The John R Murray Charitable Trust, The Pilgrim Trust, Friends of the National Libraries, The Aurelius Charitable Trust, R E Chadwick Charitable Trust, The Kenneth Hargreaves Trust, The Gordon Black Trust and Maggs Bros.
In addition the society raised over £85,000 with over 1000 supporters through the charity’s first ever public Crowdfunder campaign.