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The National (Scotland)
The National (Scotland)
Adam Robertson

University of Aberdeen finds Anne Bronte was a renowned rock collector

Image Credit: The Bronte Society

THE University of Aberdeen has helped reveal that renowned novelist Anne Brontë had a keen interest in geology.

Known for works such as The Tenant of Wildfell Hall and for being one of three famous literary sisters, it’s been discovered she was a skilled collector.

The youngest of the Brontë sisters was initially thought to have collected the items for aesthetic value but research have shown she was a big part of what was known as geology’s ‘golden age.’

Sally Jaspars, a student at the University of Aberdeen’s Department of English is studying Bronte as part of her PhD and contacted Stephen Bowden from the School of Geosciences for assistance in analysing the author’s collection. 

Jaspars said: “When I learned of Anne Brontë’s collection I thought it a great opportunity to engage in interdisciplinary research combining science and literature.

“Her interest in geology is mentioned in her literary works – indeed in The Tenant of Wildfell Hall she references the science and a book by Sir Humphry Davy directly.

“This is the first time that Anne’s collection has been systematically described and fully identified, and in doing so we add to the body of knowledge on Anne and show her to be scientifically minded and engaging with geology.”

They found that as well as carnelians and agates which she collected in Scarborough, where she worked as a governess, the collection contained flowstone – a kind of calcium carbonate that formed in a cave like a stalagmite.

Image Credit: The Bronte Society

There was also a rare kind of red obsidian which originated outside of the UK.

Using portable Raman spectroscopy – a technique which identifies the mineral composition of rocks and stones – researchers analysed Anne’s collection which is currently housed at the Brontë Parsonage Museum in Yorkshire.

It’s also likely that Anne would have visited the Rotunda Museum close to where she stayed in Scarborough as it contained exhibits featuring the area’s geology.

Dr Bowden added: “Our Raman spectroscopy analysis which we undertook at the Brontë Parsonage Museum shows that Anne Brontë did not just collect pretty stones at random but skilfully accumulated a meaningful collection of semiprecious stones and geological curiosities.

“Anne’s collection comprises stones that are sufficiently unusual and scarce to show that they were collected deliberately for their geological value, and it’s clear that her collection took skill to recognise and collect.”

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