Tuesday, September 18, 2007

My Brontë collection

In a post earlier today, I mentioned that I dabble in book collecting, and linked to a rare Brontë first edition that I would love to have. That reminded me of a promise I made to a fellow writer and Brontë fan: that I would post pictures of several Brontë books that I have.

Here is a picture of my Brontë collection. The set of four red books and the set of twelve green books are the sets I'm posting about. Between them is an olive green book of Charlotte Brontë's poetry, which is not part of either set (but still quite pretty — too bad I forgot to take pictures of it, too!). The fat green book on the far left is a Victorian book of women's biographies called Daughters of Genius, which contains a chapter on one or more of the Brontë sisters. The skinny white book next to it I will explain below. (The red book on the far right is not a Brontë book, but a first edition copy of Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca.)

The red books are a set of Charlotte Brontë's four books: The Professor (which was her first book but remained unpublished until after she died), Jane Eyre (her first published book and her most popular), Shirley, and Villette. Although the set is not dated, I think it is probably from the 1880s or 1890s.

This set actually took me a little while to complete. I originally found only three of them — it took me about a year to track down a copy of Jane Eyre for this set.

This picture shows the covers and the beautiful deep green endpapers, which are very smooth and slightly shiny. The paper is very thick, which makes the books quite thick as well — particularly Shirley!

The other set, the little green books, are a complete set of the Brontë sisters' works. All of their books and a bunch of their poems are included, with Agnes Grey in the second volume of Wuthering Heights (much as they were published originally). They are very small books, quite literally "pocket-sized."

The set was a birthday present from Michael — albeit one I found and asked him to get me! We got it extremely cheap — around $100 — I think because everyone thought Agnes Grey was missing. (I did too — imagine my delight when I realized the set was complete after all!) I have seen books from the set listed singly for around $15 each — and that's in rather poor condition — so I know these are a rare treasure.

Each book has an elaborate letter B embossed on the cover.

Each book also has a lovely frontispiece with a tissue paper guard.

The date on the set is 1901 (MDCCCCI). They are in good shape for being 106 years old!

Each book also has a pretty (but rather fragile) red ribbon marker.

This book is a story that Charlotte wrote when she was 13. It was published in the 1960s. Although it wouldn't be collectible to anyone but a Brontë fanatic, I think it's pretty cool.

There you have it — my antiquarian Brontë collection!


Anonymous said...

Oh wow katharine! This is genius! Look at those stained pages...I love the smell of old books too! The Agnes Gray book I lost was an old copy too. I think it was stolen though because it just suddenly disappeared. :(

Do you read these old books or do you have new reprints of the Bronte sisters' works? I'm a little apprehensive in handling old books because they might suddenly fall apart.

Katharine Swan said...


Thanks for visiting! I'm glad removing the comment moderation fixed the commenting problem.

I do read the old books (though if I had that first edition one I linked to in the last post, I probably wouldn't!). I am pretty careful with my books anyway, but I am especially so with my older books -- I don't force the book to open all the way, instead reading with it open 90 or 110 degrees. Also, I am rather picky when I buy collectible books, so none of my copies have loose pages or broken bindings.

Anonymous said...

:D That's what I do too! Anybody who bends the spines of my books gets punished.

Ha~ I want to have a library of my own...with old books to fill it up :(

Katharine Swan said...

Mariella said...

"Anybody who bends the spines of my books gets punished."

That sounds just like me. As a teen, I actually went through a phase where I would only touch my books at the corners of the spine and on the inside pages while I read, so that I avoided fingerprinting the glossy covers as much as possible. I made anyone who borrowed my books do it, too!

Fortunately, I outgrew that -- but I'm still anal about my books!


Popular Posts