In 1829-30, Charlotte Brontë was 13 and her brother Branwell Brontë 12. Creating fantasy worlds they called Angria and Glass Town, the siblings made teeny tiny books.
Measuring less than 1 inch by 2 inches, the books were made from scraps of paper and constructed by hand. Despite their diminutive size, the books contained big adventures, written in ink in careful script.
Twenty books, all by Charlotte and Branwell, remain. Similar books created by the other sisters, Anne and Emily, did not survive. Nine of the existing books, known as Bronte juvenalia, are in the collection at the Houghton Library at Harvard University.
Scholars have long had access to the book, but the library has now made them more broadly available by digitizing them and putting them online.
“Seeing the physical object brings home the effort and intelligence it took to create them and why they created them. Having grown up with Brontë, it’s a way of connecting with the past through objects,” Houghton curator Leslie Morris told the Harvard Gazette.
“What is extraordinary is the extent to which they imitated a professional publication, the variety of the content, and the perseverance it required,” said Priscilla Anderson, who restored the books at Harvard’s Weissman Preservation Center. “The ability to make these volumes from start to finish out of scraps is impressive.”
The Brontë sisters, of course, grew up to write some of the most lasting novels in English literature. Emily penned “Wuthering Heights” and Charlotte was the author of “Jane Eyre.” Charismatic Branwell’s efforts to be a tutor, clerk and artist failed, and he died of tuberculosis after struggling with alcohol and opium.
Charlotte and Branwell’s juvenalia can be found online here:
By Charlotte Brontë:
Scenes on the great bridge, November 1829
The silver cup: a tale, October 1829
Blackwoods young mens magazine, August 1829
An interesting passage in the lives of some eminent personages of the present age, June 1830
The poetaster: a drama in two volumes, July 1830
The adventures of Mon. Edouard de Crack, February 1830
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