Inside the Milberg Gallery: In the Company of Good Books - The Brontës

The following is part of a series of inside looks at the current exhibition in Princeton University Library’s Ellen and Leonard Milberg Gallery in Firestone Library - “In the Company of Good Books: Shakespeare to Morrison.” 

Curated by Jennifer Garcon, Librarian for Modern and Contemporary Special Collections, Gabriel Swift, Librarian for American Collections, and Eric White, Scheide Librarian & Assistant University Librarian for Special Collections, Rare Books & Manuscripts, the exhibition celebrates the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s “First Folio” and showcases Princeton’s diverse collection of English literature and many of the writers and readers who brought life to English literature around the world. 

Charlotte Brontë (1816-1855), Emily Brontë (1818-1848), and Anne Brontë (1820-1849) constituted a literary community within the bounds of one family. Growing up in the village of Haworth in Yorkshire, England, the three sisters and their brother Branwell shared ideas and emotions in highly personal manuscripts full of poetry, fantasy, alter-egos, and in-jokes. 

The Brontë manuscripts in the exhibition were doomed to await posthumous publication. Three of them are from the authors’ juvenalia, while the fourth preserves the final chapters written by the last surviving Brontë sister.

Charlotte Bronte - autographed manuscript of "Emma" dated November 27 1853.

Charlotte Brontë (1816-1855). “Emma.” Autographed manuscript. (Haworth), dated 27 November 1853. Robert H. Taylor, Class of 1930.

 

Beginning in 1847, each of the Brontë sisters would publish revolutionary novels under masculine pseudonyms bearing corresponding initials: Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell, respectively. A letter written by Charlotte Brontë, signed as “Currer Bell,” exemplifies the remoteness of her dealings with her publishers; similarly, she signed the exhibited copy of “Jane Eyre” under the guise of her initials.

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The exhibition is open through December 10, 2023 at the Milberg Gallery in Firestone Library. Please visit the website to view the gallery’s opening hours and for information about public tours, related programming, and how to visit.

Discover more through the companion digital exhibition.

Published October 24, 2023.

Media Contact: Stephanie Oster, Library Publicity Manager