The Bronte Society is hoping to return a rare early book written by one of the famed literary sisters to the UK when it’s auctioned in Paris later.
The work is one of six “little books” written by Charlotte, the eldest of the three sisters, in 1830 when she was 14.
The society, which runs the Parsonage Museum in their old home in Haworth, West Yorkshire, has been trying to raise the estimated £650,000 it needs.
The miniature work has been in private hands since the Brontes’ deaths.
The tiny book, which features three hand-written stories, is one of six written by Charlotte, with five known to survive. The Bronte Parsonage Museum already holds the other four.
Called The Young Men’s Magazine, the works were created for Charlotte’s toy soldiers and document an imaginary world created by the family called Glass Town.
Charlotte is best known for her 1847 classic novel Jane Eyre.
The existence of the book that is up for sale – measuring 35mm x 61mm and consisting of 20 pages – came to light in 2011 when it was auctioned at Sotheby’s.
The Bronte society was outbid by a discredited investment scheme that is no longer operational.
Kitty Wright of the Bronte Society said: “This extraordinary manuscript slipped through our fingers in 2011 so we are especially determined to make the most of this second opportunity to bring it home to Haworth.”
Rebecca Yorke, also from the society, said more than 900 people had pledged money to help buy the book.
“They have also expressed how strongly they feel that this remains in Haworth, where it can be enjoyed by visitors and researched by scholars and academics,” she told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
Several celebrities, including Dame Judi Dench, Dame Jacqueline Wilson and Tracy Chevalier, have backed the society’s efforts to raise money.
‘A magical doorway’
York-born Dame Judi, who is president of the Bronte Society, said earlier this year: “I have long been fascinated by the little books created by the Brontes when they were children.
“These tiny manuscripts are like a magical doorway into the imaginary worlds they inhabited, and also hint at their ambition to become published authors.”
The Paris auction house catalogue said: “This is a unique opportunity to acquire such a precious autograph piece of the origin of this genius novelist, as well as a glance at the children’s games and the imaginary world of the ‘Glass Town’ of the Bronte children.”
Part of the Young Men’s Magazine describes a murderer driven to madness after being haunted by his victims, and how “an immense fire” burning in his head causes his bed curtains to set alight.
Experts at the museum say this section of the story is “a clear precursor” of a famous scene between Bertha and Edward Rochester in Jane Eyre, which Charlotte would publish 17 years later.