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  • Posts Tagged ‘Honresfield Library’

    HONRESFIELD LIBRARY SALE AT SOTHEBY’S POSTPONED

    Thursday, June 17th, 2021

    The sale at Sotheby’s of the manuscripts, first editions, letters and bindings that make up the legendary Honresfield Library – assembled with passion by self-made Victorian industrialists William and Alfred Law at the turn of the 20th century – has been postponed. The Honresfield library contains a treasury of English and Scottish literature including the most important Bronte material to come to light in a generation. 

    Working together with the UK charity Friends of the National Library (FNL), Sotheby’s has agreed to postpone the commencement of the auctions to allow for negotiations for the entirety of the library to be acquired by a consortium of institutions for the nation. The FNL has launched an appeal with an additional donation from its own resources and will be working over the next months to fundraise with the public and private philanthropists. Institutions involved include the Bodleian Libraries, the British Library, The National Library of Scotland, Brontë Parsonage Museum, Robert Burns Birthplace Museum, Brotherton Library (University of Leeds), Abbotsford (The Home Of Sir Walter Scott) and Jane Austen’s House, among others.

    (See post on antiquesandartireland.com for May 25, 2021)

    Walter Scott manuscript of The Lay of the Last Minstrel

    LIBRARY OF BRITISH LITERATURE EMERGES AFTER DECADES

    Tuesday, May 25th, 2021

    The most important Brontë material to come to light in a generation and two of the greatest Scottish manuscripts in private hands are to come under the hammer at Sotheby’s. Thought lost for almost a century the Honresfield Library was assembled with passion by self-made Victorian industrialists Alfred and William Law at the turn of the 20th century and has since been maintained with care by generations of the Law family. A unique treasury replete with cornerstones of British culture, its re-emergence after almost 100 years in obscurity marks a defining moment for bibliophiles in what is set to be the one of the great library sales of recent years.

    Emily and Anne Brontë autograph manuscripts

    Among the library’s holdings is the most important material by the Brontë sisters to come to light in a generation – unrivalled in importance by any other private collection. The rare pieces open a window onto the short but amazing lives of Charlotte, Emily, Anne and even Branwell Brontë.

    Treasures include an extremely rare handwritten copy of Emily’s poems, with revisions from Charlotte (£800,000-1,200,000) and the well-loved Brontë family copy of Bewick’s History of British Birds, the book made famous in the opening pages of Jane Eyre (£30,000-50,000), brimming with entertaining annotations from their father Patrick. Little-seen letters to and from fellow novelist Elizabeth Gaskell, Hartley Coleridge (son of poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge), George Smith, publisher and vital champion of ‘The Bells’ (The Brontës’ secretive pseudonym), and many more, abound.

    Sir Walter Scott autograph manuscript

    Scottish literature is also at the heart of the collection, which includes the most important manuscript by Scotland’s national poet, Robert Burns, in private hands. A compendium of poems, notes and ideas put together by Burns as an unknown twenty-four year old, First Commonplace Book offers a unique insight into the bard’s mind. It was last sold at Sotheby’s in 1879, for £10. The collection includes individual handwritten manuscripts of Burns’s poems and original letters to friends, family, patrons and lovers which build a picture of his colourful life.

    Robert Burns First Commonplace Book

    Romantic writer Sir Walter Scott – the second-most quoted writer in the Oxford English Dictionary after Shakespeare – is also represented, most notably by the complete manuscript for Rob Roy, one of the last remaining manuscripts of a great 19th century novel that is not now in an institution. There are Jane Austen first editions, including EmmaNorthanger AbbeyPersuasionPride and Prejudice, a copy of Don Quixote printed in 1620 for Edward Blounte, the publisher for the First Folio of Shakespeare’s plays, and an annotated copy of Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poems with pages showing author’s changes from proof printing in his hand. Homer, Ovid, the Grimm Brothers, Montaigne, Ann Radcliffe, Horace Walpole, Charles Dickens and Mary Wollstonecraft are among those making an appearance.More than 500 historic manuscripts, exceptional first editions, intimate letters and beautiful bindings will be offered across three auctions at Sotheby’s. The first auctions open for bidding from July 2-13 next. Exhibitions of highlights are to take place in London, Edinburgh and New York.

    UPDATE: Sotheby’s has postponed this auction to allow for negotiations for the entirety of the library to be acquired by a consortium of institutions for the nation.