The Bronte Library Shelf

Peruse the shelves that influenced the Brontes to change English literature forever...

The purpose of this website is to provide a tantalizing glimpse of the intellectual world occupied by the minds of the Bronte sisters, while also exploring library history via the lens of the time and place in which the sisters lived. Using primary source documents, such as estate sale lists, and library catalogs, as well as scholarly and popular works on the reading habits and preferences of the family, I have loosely reconstructed and curated a collection based on a fraction of what they had available to them. The mythos of the Brontes would have people believe that like the supposedly isolated region they lived in, they were cutoff from society and social norms, as well as culture. Even this brief examination of the libraries available to them prior to the Public Libraries Act of 1850 demonstrates that not only did they take advantage of social networks to borrow books from friends and acquaintances, they also had access to libraries like the one at Ponden Hall, and possibly the Bradford Library and Literary Society, the Keighley Mechanics Instititute Library and the Bradford Mechanics Institute Library. In addition to these, not covered in this project, there existed small church libraries, small "public" libraries (in the sense that they were open to all), circulating libraries and subscription libraries.

Use the menu at the top of the page to navigate from the Bronte's personal collection, or bookshelf, to other nearby libraries to sample what educated locals read in the mid 1800s in Yorkshire England.

Charlotte Bronte (1816-1855) is known for her most popular work, Jane Eyre, published in 1847 under the male psuedonym Currer Bell.

Emily Jane Bronte's (1818-1848) Wuthering Heights, written under the pseudonym Ellis Bell, is her only known published work of prose.

Anne Bronte (1820-1849), written under the male pseudonym Acton Bell.