A tiny manuscript written by Charlotte Brontë when she was 14 years old has returned to the house in Haworth where she wrote it. After a fundraising campaign promoted by famous people like Judi Dench, the Brontë Society was able to acquire it at auction in Paris in November 2019 for €600,000 ($660,000) hammer price. Now it has gone on display at the Brontë Parsonage Museum, the family’s former home that today has the largest collection of Brontë-related objects in the world.
The book is a miniature, at 2.4 inches high and 1.4 inches wide about the size of a matchbox. The 20-page folio is bound in a brown paper cover and inserted in a red folder. The folder was kept in a brown morocco case. The title page alone is a gem:
SECOND SERIES OF THE
MAGAZINES . NO
FOR SEPTEMBER 1830
Edited by Charlotte Brontë
Booksellers in the chief Glass Town Paris Ross GT Parrys GT Wellingtons Glass Town &c &c &c
August Finished August 19, 1830 Charlotte
The table of contents on the next page lists the short stories in the short volume: A Letter from Lord Charles Wellesley, The Midnight Song by Marquis Donato and Frenchman’s Journal by Tree. The author names are as fictional as the stories. Charlotte wrote everything, of course. The stories are followed by the Advertisements section, because even at 14 Charlotte evinced a keen understanding of the intersection between literature and commerce. She managed to fit more than 4,000 words on these tiny pages, just 17 of them if you deduct the title and half-title/contents.
Charlotte’s mini-magazine was one of six she wrote as a teenager, inspired by Blackwood’s Magazine, the family’s favorite periodical. It was set in the fictional “glass World,” the first of many imaginary worlds created by the brilliant but isolated Brontë siblings when they were home-schooled after the deaths of their two older sisters caused by the deprivations they suffered at the brutal Clergy Daughters’ School in Lancashire, later immortalized by Charlotte as Lowood School in Jane Eyre.
The Brontë Parsonage Museum has five of the six “little books” now that they’ve acquired number two. Number five is lost, its whereabouts unknown since the 1930s.