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Lost Emily Brontë manuscript could sell for over £1 million at Sotheby’s


An incredible manuscript of Emily Brontë’s poetry could sell for over £1 million at Sotheby’s, after being lost for almost 100 years.

The highly rare handwritten copy of Emily’s poems also features revisions from her sister Charlotte, and is expected to sell for £800,000 – £1.2 million.

A first edition of her classic (and only) novel Wuthering Heights could also fetch between £200,000 and £300,000.

The works are part of a remarkable library of rare books assembled at the turn of the 20th century by the Victorian industrialists Alfred and William Law.

The brothers made their fortune as mill owners and lived together at Honresfield House in Rochdale, where they created their library during the ‘Golden Age’ of book collecting.

The pair remained unmarried, and when they died the entire library was inherited by their nephew Sir Alfred Law in 1913.

Unlike many rare book collections of the era, the Law library survived intact and was passed down through generations of the family.

But it disappeared from view in the 1930s, and has remained completely off-limits to experts for almost 100 years.

The collection will now be offered across a series of three auctions at Sotheby’s, and the forthcoming sale has been described as a “defining moment for bibliophiles”.

Also amongst the treasures are two of the most important Scottish literary manuscripts remaining in private hands.

First is First Commonplace Book, a compendium of poems, lyrics, notes and ideas by Scotland’s national poet Robert Burns.

The manuscript is dated circa 1783-1785, when Burns was an unknown 24-year-old writer, and last sold at auction at Sotheby’s in 1879 for £10.

And second is the complete manuscript for Sir Walter Scott’s famous work Rob Roy, believed to be one of the last great 19th century novel manuscripts not owned by a major museum.

Elsewhere there are rare works by the likes of Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, the Grimm Brothers, along with an annotated copy of Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poems and a rare copy of Don Quixote printed in 1620.

“Sotheby’s has been bringing books together with collectors for more than 275 years, and the Honresfield library is a fitting tribute to that age-old tradition,” said Dr Gabriel Heaton, Sotheby’s English Literature & Historical Manuscripts Specialist.

“When the library went missing from public view in the 1930s, many assumed it had disappeared, and to now play a role in bringing it to a wider audience is a true career highlight.”

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