Auckland is a long way from the wild moors of Yorkshire where Charlotte, Emily and Anne Brontë lived and wrote, but their first published work is part of the Heritage Collections at Auckland Libraries.
Currently, on display at Tāmaki Pātaka Kōrero - Central City Library is an extremely rare copy of the only collaborative work by the Brontë sisters – Poems by Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell (Pseudonyms for Charlotte, Emily and Anne respectively).
A collection of poems by all three sisters; the book was their first published work, released in 1846 before the production of the renowned novels that they’re remembered for today.
Only one thousand copies of Poems were printed, and as the Brontë sisters' fame grew, the rare books became highly valuable and sought-after items.
The copy now sitting in our Auckland library once belonged to Auckland lawyer and art patron Edmond Mackechnie, and was donated to Auckland Libraries by his widow in November 1902. It sits alongside Shirley, Charlotte’s second novel published in 1849.
Jane Wild, Manager of Auckland Libraries’ Heritage Collections is excited by the books on display. “Poems is a compelling example of the scope and value of our heritage collections,” she says.
“We have extraordinary items from all over the world, which have survived against the odds. It’s wonderful that Aucklanders have such a valuable collection right on their doorstep and we are committed to showcasing these treasures.”
The books will be on display until the end of October in the Reading Room on level 2 of the Central City Library as part of the Real Gold Case which features rare items every month from the treasures book Real Gold published in 2007 with support from the Auckland Library Heritage Trust.
How the book came about
Charlotte, Emily, Anne and their younger brother Branwell grew up creating stories, poems and plays about the imaginary worlds of Glass Town, Angria and Gondal, and continued to write as they grew up.
As adults, Charlotte happened to come across a notebook containing poems by Emily, and was inspired to put together a book with poems from all three sisters. Although Emily was initially furious, she and Anne came around to the idea.
Their pseudonyms were deliberately made anonymous and the surname inspired by their new curate, Arthur Bell Nicholls who went on to marry Charlotte. By the time Charlotte published her novel Shirley all of her siblings had died.