Another of Charlotte’s miniature books has been returned to it’s home at the Bronte Parsonage and to celebrate, this wonderful event, I decided to focus on ‘Charlotte’s tiny books’.
The work of the Bronte sisters has had a massive impact on the world and is beloved by many. Looking back at them today, we understand what a winding path they all took towards being the famous authors that they were to become. They all travelled and taught, even tried to start a school and when finally Charlotte plucked up the courage to publish some of their work, Emily refused. Indeed the book of poetry, once published, was not an instant success – with only a few copies being sold. It’s clear, that very often and for a long time it was not at all obvious, that the huge and enduring literary success they acheived was to be their destination! However, a look at their early works shows us that they had a passion for literature well beyond the norm!
It was thanks to their ‘papa’ – Patrick Bronte that all the Bronte children were taught to read and write. He encouraged them to read many things (including some that would have been considered inappropriate for young girls, at the time). He felt it was vital for them to be well read and well informed young people, especially the girls who would need to go out into the world and make their own way and earn their own livings.
It’s but a small step from reading to writing and before long Branwell, Charlotte, Emily and Anne had all taken it. As children and young people they wrote stories, plays, poems and more, some of which survives today. The most beguiling of the ‘Bronte Juvenilia ‘ as their childhood efforts are collectively known, are the ‘tiny books’ or ‘miniature manuscripts’. The earliest is a joint effort by Branwell and Charlotte and dates to 1829 and is their version of the popular periodical Blackwoods Magazine. We don’t know how many they produced.There are several by Charlotte that are held by the British Library and the Bronte Parsonage and to my reckoning the are now 11 that we know of. Earlier this year one popped up at auction in New York and thanks to the help of the Friends of the National Libraries (FNL), a UK charity devoted to saving the nation’s written and printed heritage, it was aquired by the Bronte Parsonage and I cann’t wait to go and visit it!
These incredible tiny books are handmade, written and illustrated, mostly by Charlotte. They measure around 4 inches / 10 cm tall and the writing is so tiny, that most adults struggle to read it! They’re clearly a labour of love and contain articles, adverts, poems and stories that the Bronte children created, around a set of toy soldiers that Patrick had given Branwell for his birthday when he was 9 years old. Over the next few years the Bronte children created characters and a whole intricate world for the toy soldiers and these feature in the tiny books. It’s believed that some of the tiny books were gifts between the siblings and also for the soldiers and they are indeed the gift that keeps giving!
Thank you for reading & have a great week!