AN appeal to raise £15 million is underway to save a literary treasure trove – including rare handwritten Bronte manuscripts – from being sold off.

Haworth’s Bronte Parsonage Museum has joined a bid by the Friends of the National Libraries to save the Honresfield Library, one of the most important private collections of manuscripts and books by some of Britain’s greatest writers.

The appeal has led to Sotheby’s postponing the auction of the first part of the library, originally due for next month.

The aim is to preserve the entire library as a collection to be shared with venues around the UK, including the Bronte Parsonage Museum.

The Honresfield Library was formed in the late 19th century by a Rochdale mill-owner and remains a private family collection.

The Bronte Parsonage is part of a consortium of libraries and museums trying to raise funds to acquire the collection then pass ownership of every item to appropriate institutions across the country.

At the heart of the collection is an “astonishing” set of manuscripts by the Bronte siblings, much of which has been unseen for 80 years and never properly examined.

It includes seven of Charlotte Bronte’s famous ‘little books’ and 25 of her letters, a manuscript collection of poems by Anne and a small autograph manuscript diary note shared by Emily and Anne.

The “jewel of the Bronte collection” is Emily’s holograph notebook of 31 poems, believed by many scholars to have been lost.

It includes Charlotte’s handwritten notes and printed works by the sisters such as Emily’s annotated copy of their first publication, the “exceptionally rare” poems of 1846, and first editions of their novels in original cloth bindings.

The collection also includes the complete working manuscript of Sir Walter Scott’s novel Rob Roy, handwritten Robert Burns poems and two letters by Jane Austen to her sister, one written on the eve of a ball where she anticipated the end of a love affair and another discussing the reception of her novels Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility.

Rebecca Yorke, interim director of the Bronte Society, said: “The thought that rare and precious Bronte manuscripts were going to be sold off individually at auction was devastating, so this appeal is wonderful news.

“We’re proud to be working on the fundraising campaign to bring these unique items home to Yorkshire.

“The sums involved are significant, but we will do all we can to save the ‘little books’, letters, first editions, Emily’s notebook and other items, so they can be enjoyed by Haworth residents and visitors for years to come.”

The Bronte family moved to Haworth from Thornton in 1820 when the father, Patrick, was appointed curate. All the children were just young.

The siblings grew-up in the parsonage – and the moors above Haworth provided inspiration for some of their most famous works, such as Emily’s Wuthering Heights.

Like other attractions, the museum has been hit hard during the past 15 months by the pandemic.