'Lost' manuscripts of Charlotte Brontë to be published

'Lost' manuscripts of Charlotte Brontë to be published

The Brontë Society is marking its debut as a publisher with a title featuring two unpublished manuscripts by Charlotte Brontë, found in a book belonging to her mother.

Written in the Jane Eyre author’s own hand, the 77-line poem and a 74-line story were found in the leaves of a book belonging to her mother and sold to the society in 2015.

The title containing the manuscripts, The Remains of Henry Kirke White, is one of the rare surviving possessions of Maria Brontë, whose box, containing all her property, was shipwrecked off the Devonshire coast shortly before her marriage to Patrick Brontë in 1812. It contains Latin inscriptions in Patrick’s hand which read: “The book of my dearest wife and it was saved from the waves. So then it will always be preserved”.

Facsimiles of the two manuscripts, annotations found in the book and a sketch by Charlotte Brontë's brother, Branwell, will be reproduced in the new title along with contributions from four Brontë specialists. They will explore the significance of the find and will “reveal important new information” relating to her mother, and her place in the Brontë story.

A society spokesperson told The Bookseller the title would have been of “high production value” with a limited edition exclusively for members. Production is underway and the title is slated for release in the autumn in time for the Christmas gifting market.  

There is also an account of how the lost manuscripts were found – saved from shipwreck, sold to a private collector in America where it spent most of the last century – before making their way back to the Brontë Parsonage Museum in Yorkshire. It was acquired with a £170,000 grant from the National Heritage Memorial Fund as well as support from the V&A Museum and the Friends of the National Libraries.

Book publishing rights outside the UK and Commonwealth are being handled by Richard Gay of R & G Media who will be situated at table 17D in the International Rights Centre at the London Book Fair. He can be contacted on rg.media@btconnect.com.

The society attracted criticism in January for appointing model Lily Cole as its creative partner, celebrating the 200th anniversary of Emily Brontë's birth. Nick Holland, former member of the society and author of books on the Brontës, resigned and criticised the selection describing the decision was made as part of the society's drive to be "trendy" and to "attract a younger audience".

Cole, who has a double first from the University of Cambridge,  argued that she would need to use a pseudonym like the Brontës so that her work would be "judged on its own merits, rather than on my name, my gender, my image or my teenage decisions".