Priceless manuscripts from some of Britain’s greatest poets and authors could be lost to the nation without urgent action, Prince Charles warns today.

Writing in the Daily Mail, the heir to the throne said it was ‘too awful to contemplate’ the loss of handwritten texts by some of the country’s best-known writers – including Sir Walter Scott, Robert Burns and Charlotte Bronte.

He also warned that the UK faces a race against the clock to save literary treasures from being sold and possibly taken abroad.

His heartfelt appeal came amid growing pressure to save the Honresfield Library Collection, which includes notebooks from the Bronte sisters, letters from Jane Austen and Sir Walter Scott’s original manuscript for his novel Rob Roy.

Prince Charles reads to pupils of Borrowdale Primary School in Borrowdale, Cumbria, to officially open its new nursery room and playground

Prince Charles reads to Borrowdale Primary School pupils in Borrowdale (Cumbbria) to officially open the nursery room and playground.

The entire collection was due to be auctioned in July. 

However, Sotheby’s agreed to halt the sale so that charity Friends of the National Libraries (FNL) can try to raise the £15million needed to keep the texts in Britain.

FNL, of which Charles is patron, has so far raised £7.5million towards the ambitious target. 

But time is running out to meet this deadline.

The prince has already made a donation to the fund, which has also received more than £116,000 in public donations.

Describing the collection as a treasure trove of ‘jewels’, Charles likened the manuscripts to the sketches of great artists such as Leonardo da Vinci.

He added: ‘In saving these priceless manuscripts for the public, we have the opportunity to ensure that these invaluable records of works of genius will remain in the land where they were created, and where they belong.’

Praising the appeal as ‘a very important national endeavour’, Charles said that literature was ‘in the DNA’ of British culture. 

He paid tribute to classic works such as the novels of Charles Dickens and modern writers including Zadie Smith and JK Rowling, describing them as ‘our most influential exports’.

Thought to have been lost for a century, the Honresfield Library is a unique treasury of cornerstones of British culture

Thought to have been lost for a century, the Honresfield Library is a unique treasury of cornerstones of British culture

Charlotte Bronte's small booklet worth approximately £600,000 with the Walter Scott manuscripts beneath, also worth around £1million

Charlotte Bronte’s small booklet worth approximately £600,000 with the Walter Scott manuscripts beneath, also worth around £1million

And he added that the nation would benefit if the Honresfield collection was kept in Britain as the manuscripts would be shared between libraries around the country, ‘north and south’.

Writing in today’s Mail, he also revealed that the appeal was a ‘very personal one’. He recalled how his father, the Duke of Edinburgh, used to read to him as a child and growing up he was ‘surrounded by books’ in the Royal Library at Windsor Castle.

Other high-profile supporters of the FNL appeal to save texts include Stephen Fry, and the estate TS Eliot.

Actor Ralph Fiennes is also playing his part with a solo performance of Eliot’s Four Quartets in London from next month, which will reportedly benefit the cause through royalties paid to the Eliot charity, Old Possum’s Practical Trust.

The campaign is supported by a group of institutions including the National Library of Scotland in Edinburgh and the Bodleian Library in Oxford.

Describing it as a ‘noble campaign’, Charles said the appeal would protect part of Britain’s cultural heritage and keep it in this country, rather than allowing it to fall into the hands of private collectors.

He wrote: ‘For anyone who has ever been moved by the words of these incomparable artists, the idea of reading these manuscripts is thrilling beyond words. 

‘For the same reason, the idea of them being lost to this country is too awful to contemplate.’ 

Two Yorkshire industrialists assembled the collection in the 19th Century. It has been virtually unaccessible for the past 80 years, and only academic researchers have had access to it.

You can find more information about the Friends of the National Libraries at, including how you can donate the Honresfield Appeal. 

Why we must fight to keep the £15m jewels of our literary crown in Britain, writes HRH PRINCE OF WALES

Literature is part of our culture’s DNA, from Shakespeare to Chaucer. 

From Romantic poets who introduced a new way to see the world, to novelists such as J.R.R. Our writers, including J.K. Rowling or Tolkien who opened up new worlds for us, are our greatest cultural treasures as well as our most influential exports.

Our lives and minds are greatly enriched by the writings of our writers from all over the world, across the centuries: from Dickens the great 19th-century novelist, to Ted Hughes the poet, and current generations like Zadie Smith and Simon Armitage, our Poet Laureate.

It is difficult to imagine our cultural life without them.

Prince Charles unveiling a plaque during a visit to the Gloucester and District Branch of Samaritans on October 26

Prince Charles unveiling a plaque on a visit to the Gloucester and District Branch of Samaritans, October 26

As a patron of the Friends of the National Libraries, this is why I recognize the critical importance of their noble campaign in order to ensure that some of the finest manuscripts associated our greatest authors are kept here and not sent abroad.

Just like the sketches and drawings of great painters provide the code for understanding the creative process, so too are the manuscripts that writers have to offer the key to how they found their way to the words that now form part our collective memory.

The Honresfield Library is a treasure trove of 19th-century literature. Now that its contents are available for purchase, the Friends of the National Libraries believe that these manuscripts should be kept in the country where they were created and whose culture they went on to shape.

The jewels in this collection are the manuscripts of Sir Walter Scott with The Lay of the Last Minstrel, together with poems by Robert Burns in his own hand – containing some of his earliest recorded literary works known as the First Commonplace Book – and, of course, the notebooks of Charlotte Bronte.

Reading these manuscripts is a thrilling experience for anyone who has been touched by the words of these exceptional artists. 

The idea of them being lost is also too terrible to contemplate.

Birthday notes by Emily and Anne Bronte (1841) with sketches by Emily Thought lost for a century

Birthday notes from Emily and Anne Bronte (1841), along with sketches by Emily Thought lost forever

To support the Friends of the National Libraries’ valuable mission of conserving, preserving, and presenting manuscripts and books from the Middle Ages through the early 21st centuries to scholars, schools, and the general public, I became a patron.

This is not only a very important national endeavor, but it is also a very personal one. 

I can so well remember being read to as a child – particularly being captivated by my father reading Longfellow’s Hiawatha, with its haunting rhythm and evocative images – and was blessed to grow up surrounded by books in the Royal Library at Windsor which, as I grew older, became an endless source of fascination and inspiration.

C.S. Lewis reputedly said ‘we read to know we’re not alone’, and who could wish for better companions than the writers whose wisdom, insight and vision are always readily at hand.

The campaign to raise £15million to buy this collection is one which benefits the whole United Kingdom, as the Friends have brought together a consortium of libraries from Leeds, Edinburgh, Hampshire, London and beyond.

When the collection is purchased, it will be shared between all these libraries, small and large, north and southern. 

I know that I share with so few people in this country a love for literature that is so integral to our collective and personal histories.

Literature has truly helped to make us who we are by providing us with words to describe the human experience in all its complexity.

We have the opportunity to save these valuable manuscripts for the general public and ensure that these works of genius are preserved in the country where they were created.