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The Honresfield Library took shape not far from the rectory on the edge of the West Yorkshire moors where Charlotte, Emily, Anne and her brother Branwell (born between 1816 and 1820) grew up and created elaborate shared imaginary worlds. It was put together from the 1890s by Alfred and William Law, two self-made mill owners who grew up less than 20 miles from the Brontë house in Haworth (now the Brontë Parsonage Museum).
The collection of laws, kept in her home’s library, Honresfield House, contained what Heaton called “great country books” like a Shakespeare First Folio (long sold out). But the brothers, less typically, were also avid collectors of manuscripts, and acquired the Brontë cache from a dealer who had bought it directly from Charlotte’s widower. William, the more serious collector, also frequently visited Haworth to buy family relics that had been rescued by neighbors and relatives.
After the death of the brothers (who never married), the collection passed to a nephew, who granted access to selected scholars and had facsimiles made of some objects. However, after his death in 1939, the originals fell from the public eye.
In the 1940s, the collection had become “almost impossible to find,” as one scholar put it at the time. In the past few decades, some artifacts from the collection have been auctioned, including Charlotte’s desk (now in the Brontë Parsonage Museum). The whereabouts of the rest, however, remained unclear.
“When I was first approached about this material, I thought, ‘Wait a minute – maybe this is it The Collection? “Heaton recalled.” Then it was quite a thrill. “(The sellers who want to remain anonymous are family descendants of the law, he said.)