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A rare Charlotte Brontë manuscript is headed to auction next week. But who will take it home?

Will it end up on display in the Brontë Parsonage Museum? Or shut away in a private collection? Many members of the public – including Judi Dench – are working to ensure it's the former.

A rare Charlotte Brontë manuscript is going up for auction next week.
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A rare, tiny manuscript written by 14-year-old Charlotte Brontë in 1830 is going up for auction on Monday in Paris. The manuscript, no larger than a matchbox, is one of Brontë’s “little books,” a collection of six miniature booklets crafted by the author at the Parsonage. Only five of the six “little books” survive today; the other four are owned by the Brontë Parsonage Museum. The last booklet has remained privately owned since Brontë’s death. The Museum came close to owning the final booklet in 2011, when it last went up for auction, only to be outbid by a now-defunct investment scheme.

Determined not to let the booklet slip through their fingers again, the Museum has launched a public crowdfunding campaign to raise enough funds to purchase the book at auction. The manuscript is expected to go for at least £650,000 at auction, though the Museum’s public fundraiser is only capped at £80,000. The Museum has reportedly been working for months to apply to grants and foundations in order to raise the remaining funds. 

Dame Judi Dench, honorary president of the Brontë Society, has lent her voice to the cause as well. “These tiny manuscripts are like a magical doorway into the imaginary worlds they inhabited and also hint at their ambition to become published authors,” Dench said. “It’s very moving to think of 14 year-old Charlotte creating this particular little book at home in Haworth Parsonage.”

With just days remaining until the auction, the Museum currently has 74% of its £80,000 goal funded, with donations only being accepted until 11:00 GMT on Monday.