The forthcoming Aristophil series of sales includes the return to market of a celebrated miniature manuscript penned by a 14-year-old Charlotte Brontë (1816-55). The copy of The Young Men’s Magazine, Volume 2 dated August 1830 was last sold in London nine years ago for £690,850.
Written in minute characters in imitation of print, the tiny hand-sewn book measuring 1½ × 2½in (3.5 × 6.1cm) is one of a series of ‘magazines’ created by siblings Charlotte and Branwell Brontë from January 1829 to September 1830.
Like others in the series, the prose and poetry are based in the imaginary west African settlement of Glass Town with the characters based on a set of 12 wooden soldiers bought by Rev Brontë for Branwell in 1826.
The books (the series of the previous year was titled Blackwood’s Young Men’s Magazines) were supposed to have been produced and read by the toy soldiers, hence their miniature size.
Charlotte produced six copies of The Young Men’s Magazine, Volume 2 – four of them now in the Brontë Parsonage Museum in West Yorkshire.
This version appeared at Sotheby’s in December 2011 carrying an estimate of £200,000-300,000, but sold to the Paris Musée des Lettres et Manuscrits for £690,850, a record for a Brontë manuscript at auction.
An underbidder last time out, the Brontë Parsonage Museum has now begun a public campaign to raise the final funds needed to bid for the manuscript on this occasion.
Kitty Wright, executive director of The Brontë Society, said: “This extraordinary manuscript slipped through our fingers in 2011 so we are especially determined to make the most of this second opportunity to bring it home to Haworth. We’ve been working hard for many months applying to trusts and foundations.”
The final part of the fund-raising is a public plea. Wright asked “lovers of literature everywhere to support us now, so that we can go to the auction with a competitive bid and prevent the little book from disappearing into a private collection”.
The Paris Musée des Lettres et Manuscrits closed in 2014 after its owner Gérard Lhéritier and his company Aristophil were investigated for allegedly running an €800m Ponzi scheme.
The contents (136,000 original manuscripts and letters) are now being sold by four Paris auction houses (Aguttes, Artcurial, Drouot Estimations and Ader) in the hope of returning some money to 18,000 investors.
So far, with 21 sales held, the total stands at around €41m (£35.5m).
The Young Men’s Magazine, Volume 2 comes for sale with an estimate of €600,000- 800,000 in the 22nd sale of the series on November 18.
This auction includes a focus on British and American material from Anglo-Saxon manuscripts to Churchill letters.
Sales 23-27 (French literature, Great Historical Figures and Jean Cocteau) will follow on November 19-22 and December 4.