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- Brontë literary treasures on public display together for first time

Free exhibition at the University of Leeds now open to the public
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Handwritten poems, miniature books and printed first editions on display at the University of Leeds in a free exhibition tracing the evolution of the Brontës into literary icons.

Becoming the Brontës is a brand new exhibition at the Treasures of the Brotherton Gallery in Leeds, featuring an array of fascinating manuscripts, handwritten letters, personal sketches and more, together on public display for the first time.

Many of the items on display come from the Blavatnik Honresfield Library – a unique literary collection that was saved for the nation in a campaign led by the Friends of the National Libraries and a consortium of libraries and writers’ houses.

This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see these precious items together on display, and gain rich insight into the origins of Yorkshire’s most famous literary family.

The exhibition follows Charlotte, Branwell, Emily and Anne Brontë on a chronological journey from childhood to the beginning of their literary careers and finally their lasting legacy as genre-defining authors.

Highlights of the display:

•    A rare, surviving notebook filled with over 30 of Emily’s poems, with annotations by Charlotte, including the handwritten line: “Never was better stuff penned”
•    First editions of ‘Jane Eyre’, ‘Wuthering Heights’, ‘Agnes Grey’ and ‘Shirley’, previously owned by the family’s faithful servant Martha Brown
•    Emily’s own annotated copy of the first Brontë book, ‘Poems by Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell’, published under the sisters’ pen names to hide their gender
•    Eight miniature books, handwritten and crafted by Charlotte during childhood and adolescence, including two that are bound in packaging originally used for Epsom salts
•    A pencil sketch by ten-year-old Emily that shows a small hand reaching through a broken window, evoking the image of Cathy grasping Lockwood’s hand in ‘Wuthering Heights’
•    Letters from the sisters that reveal their frustration at errors in first editions of ‘Wuthering Heights’ and ‘Agnes Grey’ and the challenges they faced together to get their work seen by publishers

Ann Dinsdale, Principal Curator at the Brontë Parsonage Museum, said: “The Brontë Parsonage Museum is proud to have been part of the consortium that fought to save the Blavatnik Honresfield Library for the nation. Now, these wonderful manuscripts will be brought together again, offering unique insight into the intense collaboration and creativity that bound the Brontë children together, making clear their long apprenticeship as writers.”  

This is an extraordinary collection of objects, beautifully displayed, and not to be missed.

Becoming the Brontës is co-curated by the British Library, the Brontë Parsonage Museum and the University of Leeds’ Brotherton Library.

Becoming the Brontës is open to the public from Friday 30 June to Saturday 28 October

Tickets: Free, no booking required
Opening hours: Tuesday to Saturday, 10.00am-5.00pm
Location: Treasures of the Brotherton Gallery, Parkinson Building of the University of Leeds, Woodhouse Lane, Leeds, LS2 9JT

Visit the exhibition webpage

Image: Mark Webster Photography/University of Leeds
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