Friday, December 23, 2011

Two pricey literary artifacts pop up

All kinds of literary and artistic treasures seem to be materializing these days, from the new Leonardo I mentioned Monday to the putative portrait of Jane Austen discovered by the husband of Austen biographer Paula Byrne (left) to a teeny tiny manuscript by Charlotte Bronte recently bought at auction for $1.1 million by La Musée des Lettres et Manuscrits in Paris.

Anne, Emily & Charlotte by Branwell Bronte
The miniature booklet is one of six handwritten, "Young Men's Magazines" Bronte inscribed at age 14, when she and her siblings were vying with each other in creating fictional worlds. Set in "Glass Town," this 4,000-word, 19-page booklet surfaced from a private collection. One of its scenes prefigures the Jane Eyre episode in which  Rochester's mad wife tries to kill him by setting fire to the curtains in his bedroom. Bronte scholars and devotees are keenly anticipating a promised transcript from the Paris museum. The Brontë Parsonage Museum in Haworth, whose bid couldn't quite cut the mustard, is understandably devastated because they own four of what was a series of six such booklets (the other is untraced). They believe the book is a national treasure that belongs in Bronte's home. Much critical study has been devoted to these cunningly wrought booklets, and they are one of the most popular exhibits at the museum. What do you think?

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