Big things have small beginnings
September 18, 2009 9:20 AM   Subscribe

Charlotte and Branwell Brontë wrote many of their stories of Angria on tiny sheets of paper in nearly microscopic handwriting. This particular example consists of four sheets of notepaper folded into sixteen pages. The individual sheets are approximately 4 ½ inches long and 3 5/8 inches wide, and the entire text contains about nineteen thousand words.
posted by Joe Beese (20 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
I saw one of those tiny Bronte notebooks at the Morgan years ago. So freaking cool.
posted by dersins at 9:24 AM on September 18, 2009

Stupid Brontës always make me feel like the big fat underachiever I am.

I'd like to live in Verdopolis, though.
posted by Neofelis at 9:34 AM on September 18, 2009

Paper was expensive.
posted by tkchrist at 9:41 AM on September 18, 2009

Yet another reason why nobody buys Anne's books.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 10:02 AM on September 18, 2009 [9 favorites]

'No, really, read Jane Eyre! It's only like fifty pages.'
posted by shakespeherian at 10:04 AM on September 18, 2009 [2 favorites]

ooh thanks for the bronte porn. bookmarked!
posted by supermedusa at 10:08 AM on September 18, 2009

Yet another reason why nobody buys Anne's books.

Bwah! I'm about to teach The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, which indeed is about why you should refrain from marrying Rochester-Heathcliff types.

On the same topic, one of Branwell's similar manuscripts.
posted by thomas j wise at 10:14 AM on September 18, 2009

It's not like paper grows on trees you kn...

posted by rusty at 10:17 AM on September 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

The Harry Ransom Center at UT Austin has one of these squares. Sadly, I can't find a pic, but they tout it as one of their possessions high on the cool meter, and they bring it out for exhibition frequently.
posted by spamguy at 11:09 AM on September 18, 2009

Think of how scarce paper really was and how it would have been improper for a lady - especially sisters - partaking in a career as bold as writing. They were probably even writing in secret.
posted by parmanparman at 11:20 AM on September 18, 2009

This is what would look like if it weren't in the computer age.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:55 AM on September 18, 2009 [2 favorites]

This just brought back memories of Robert Crumb's brother.
posted by Stylus Happenstance at 12:48 PM on September 18, 2009 [2 favorites]

parmanparman, the Brontes did not exactly write in secret. Writing and reading and education was very encouraged in their family, and the sisters and brother collaborated throughout their entire childhood.

However, the sisters all hid their actual adult writings from each other until Charlotte accidentally discovered one of Emily's poems, read it, and confronted Anne and Emily together. They were so shocked by this transgression of privacy that it took a while for Charlotte to convince them to pursue publication together. They did publish under pseudonyms, but that was very common for the time, and Charlotte's literary identity was well known before her death.

[/pedantry, sorry, I'm writing a book that's partly about this]
posted by mynameisluka at 2:42 PM on September 18, 2009

OK, so after umpteen years I had to actually register, just to comment on this item. Why? Because I got to do the conservation work on that manuscript. And I have to say, working on it was really a lot of fun.

Not the first time my work has been featured on the Blue - there was that 1518 Ovid full vellum binding I did for MU earlier this year. I currently have its smaller and older brother (1507 I think) waiting for attention in my safe . . .

Thanks, Joe.
posted by Shadan7 at 3:39 PM on September 18, 2009 [18 favorites]

I appreciate the beauty and cool factor, but...

Dude. I'll go buy you another notebook. It's all good. Seriously, health insurance and Duralens haven't been invented yet, calm down with the eyestrain and if you want to be all secret and club-housey about it we can get you some ciphers or lemon juice ink or something...
posted by saysthis at 7:14 PM on September 18, 2009

You did some work for MU? Rock!

(usually I just tell people I went to Columbia. well, it's one of the Columbias, right?)
posted by Afroblanco at 8:19 PM on September 20, 2009

I am so excited to know that this is going on at my university! I also feel a bit vindicated now, as people regularly complain about my small handwriting. If the Brontës can do it, surely it's okay if I do.
posted by bibliophibianj at 6:48 AM on September 21, 2009

I would expect John Hodgman to explain that the Bronte family inspired The Borrowers, and were actually extremely tiny people.
posted by anniecat at 7:56 AM on September 21, 2009

Here's the MeFi thread on the 1518 copy of Ovid that Shadan7 is referring to.

hey look, MeFi's almost at user number 100000
posted by intermod at 11:20 AM on September 21, 2009


Best (worst) intro ever.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 11:50 AM on September 22, 2009

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