• The William E. Self Library, I auction at Christies

    Sale 2153

    The William E. Self Library, Important English and American Literature

    4 December 2009, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 27

    [BRONTË, Emily and Anne. Wuthering Heights. A Novel. By Ellis Bell. -- Agnes Grey. A Novel. By Acton Bell. London: Thomas Cautley Newby, 1847].

    Price Realised  

    Estimate

    [BRONTË, Emily and Anne. Wuthering Heights. A Novel. By Ellis Bell. -- Agnes Grey. A Novel. By Acton Bell. London: Thomas Cautley Newby, 1847].

    3 volumes, 8o. Advertisement leaves R3-4 in volume three. (Title pages removed, pages 163-168 lacking from volume one [see note below], volume three with pages 12-24 repaired.) Original reddish-brown cloth, Smith Variant B (some fading and soiling, volume three front hinge cracked); cloth folding case.

    Provenance: CHARLOTTE BRONTË (her pencil annotations in volume one); Rev. Arthur Bell Nichols, Charlotte Brontë's husband (who sold books from her library to); Clement Shorter (bookplates in volumes one and two, his sale Sotheby's, 18 June 1928, lot 32); anonymous owner, Sotheby's London, 28 June 1964, lot 390; anonymous owner, Sotheby's London, 29 October 1968, lot 473; The Property of a Lady, Sotheby's London, 24 June 1975, lot 281A.

    CHARLOTTE BRONTË'S COPY OF 'WUTHERING HEIGHTS' AND 'AGNES GREY': WITH HER PENCIL ANNOTATIONS, CORRECTIONS AND GLOSSES THROUGHOUT VOLUME ONE

    FIRST EDITION OF EMILY BRONTË'S ONLY NOVEL, PUBLISHED WITH HER SISTER ANNE'S 'AGNES GREY' AND OWNED BY THEIR SISTER CHARLOTTE. In the introduction to his 1911 edition of Wuthering Heights, Clement Shorter referred to this copy as "Emily Brontë's own copy," and in 1917 it was described in Wise's Bibliography of the Brontë Family as being in Shorter's collection (as it most likely was in 1911), "formerly the property of Emily Brontë herself." In the 1890s, Wise and Shorter had bought the majority of surviving Brontë material from Charlotte's widower, Rev. Arthur Bell Nichols, who had moved to Ireland from Haworth after Charlotte's death in 1855. Wise noted that "the first volume has fifteen [though there are actually twenty-six] corrections to the text marked in pencil in her own handwriting ... Unfortunately the title-pages of the first two volumes [containing Wuthering Heights] are in facsimile and pages 163-168 are missing from vol. 1."

    Study of the volumes since they were sold in 1968 has established that the corrections are in the hand of Charlotte, not Emily as proposed by Wise and Shorter. The handwriting and, most importantly, the substance of the notes clearly point to Charlotte's authorship. It was she who prepared the text for the 1850 edition, two years after Emily's death at the age of 30 and one year after Anne's death at age 29. Furthermore, it was her library, and not Emily's, that was brought to Ireland by Rev. Nichols and sold to Shorter. The pencil corrections in volume one are largely editorial in nature, ranging from changes in punctuation to changes in word choice.

    Two letters from Dr. Juliet R.V. Barker, Librarian and Curator at the Brontë Society, to Mr. William Self in March 1987 establish the modern concensus on authorship: "Dr. Mildred Christian, a noted Brontë scholar who has personally studied most of Charlotte Brontë's manuscripts, believed that the notations were by Charlotte rather than Emily. This would seem to be logical, particularly in view of the two dialect alterations to pages 233 ('Higs' which should read 'Lugs' altered to 'Ears') and page 293 ('thick' altered to 'friendly'). Such alterations are more in keeping with Charlotte's editorial policy than Emily's" (March 4). In her March 12th letter, Dr. Barker states that she has spoken to Margaret Smith and Professor Kathleen Tillotson and "you will be pleased to know that both confirm that they think the handwriting is definitely that of Charlotte Brontë. Professor Tillotson says also that she is under the impression that the two Clarendon editors of Wuthering Heights have now reverted to this view themselves since the publication of the edition in 1975." Barker transmits Margaret Smith's detailed analysis of the writing and the choices in diction that are characteristic of Charlotte Brontë.

    In 1895, Rev. Nicholls wrote to Clement Shorter to say that he "had not the least idea [the copy] was imperfect -- in fact I don't think I ever opened the book as I had read the story before that copy came into my possession. As the absence of the Title pages reduces the value of the book I shall gladly refund..." Professor Tillotson, according to Dr. Barker's letter, took this to mean that Nicholls had not seen the annotations.

    In the years between Wise's examination of the copy for the bibliography and the Shorter sale in 1928, the facsimile title-pages were removed. Legend has it that Wise, consulted by Shorter's executors about the plans for the sale, insisted on the removal of the facsimile titles. Whoever removed them also removed the genuine title to volume three, Agnes Grey, its offset still visible on the endpaper. This copy does though contain the advertisement leaves R3-4 which are lacking in the Ashley copy. The stamped decorative design on the bindings are a variant: linear, 3¾ inches deep (the Ashley copy is solid, 4¼ inches deep). The missing leaves in volume 1 (pages 163-168) were apparently omitted by the binder as there is no sign of excision or removal.

    Wuthering Heights is excessively rare in any condition, irrespective of the importance of the provenance of the present copy. According to American Book Prices Current, only five copies have sold at auction in at least thirty years, and none in original cloth. THE PRESENT SET CONSTITUTES THE MOST SIGNIFICANT COPY OF WUTHERING HEIGHTS TO HAVE APPEARED ON THE MARKET SINCE IT WAS LAST SOLD IN 1975. Parrish, pp.85-86; Tinker 388; Sadleir 350; Smith Brontë Sisters 3; Wise Bibliography of the Brontë Family, pp. 101-2. AN OUTSTANDING ASSOCIATION COPY, LINKING THE THREE BRONTË SISTERS. (3)


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