Thursday, June 17, 2021

Thursday, June 17, 2021 3:22 pm by Cristina in , ,    No comments
We have an update about the Honresfeld (well, now it's Honresfield all over the place but it was always Honresfeld) Library set to be auctioned at Sotheby's. Seeing that the UK government's regard for culture is zilch, a 'consortium' has got together to try and save the treasures for nation. So far they have at least got Sotheby's to postpone the auction so that they have time to raise the millions of pounds needed. This is epic and will be even more so if they succeed, which we sincerely hope they will do.

From the British Library to the Brontë Parsonage Museum, a consortium of libraries and museums have come together in an “unprecedented” effort to raise £15m and save an “astonishingly important” set of literary manuscripts for the nation. [...]
The initiative to prevent the “priceless” manuscripts by authors including the Brontë sisters, Jane Austen, Walter Scott and Robert Burns from falling into private hands is being led by the charity Friends of the National Libraries (FNL). It includes institutions such as the Bodleian, the British Library and the National Library of Scotland; and smaller organisations such as Abbotsford, the home of Walter Scott in Melrose; Jane Austen’s House in Chawton; the Brontë Parsonage Museum in Haworth; and the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum in Alloway.
The FNL is in discussions with both private philanthropists and public funders as it looks to raise the purchase price of £15m for the entire Honresfield library. It is also launching a crowdfunding appeal. [...]
According to the FNL, a private library of British literature of such significance has not been placed on the open market for many decades and us unlikely to appear again.
While the FNL raises the funds, the vendors and Sotheby’s have agreed to postpone the auction for the first part of the library, which had been planned for July, in order that the money can be raised for the entire library to be preserved as a collection for the nation. The FNL intends that, once purchased, each individual item be passed to the appropriate institution across the UK – so the Austen letters could reside in Hampshire, the Brontë material in Haworth, and the Scott manuscripts in Roxburghshire, for example.
“Once in a generation, a collection of books and manuscripts appears from almost nowhere that is met with a mixture of awe and stunned silence, followed by concerted action to bring it into public ownership,” said John Scally, trustee of the FNL and national librarian and chief executive of the National Library of Scotland. “The UK-wide consortium is determined to raise the funds to ensure we can save the Honresfield library for everyone to share and enjoy.”
Charles Sebag-Montefiore, trustee and treasurer of FNL, described the charity’s plans as “a crucial national endeavour to raise enough funds to keep this unique treasure trove in Britain”.
The consortium was formed after the Brontë Society raised the alarm about the potential sale of the manuscripts, describing it last month as a “calculated act of heritage dispersal”. As more institutions got involved with the campaign, the FNL was approached.
“We’ve been able to come up with a different kind of model – a library which is an astonishing time capsule in itself, preserved in the public interest, but distributed around the country,” said Oxford academic Kathryn Sutherland, who is working on the initiative.
Gabriel Heaton, Sotheby’s English literature and historical manuscripts specialist, said the auction house was “pleased to play our part in this potential outcome for this great library”.
“This proposed acquisition is a fitting tribute to the Law brothers’ voracious literary interests and their family’s excellent care of this material for over a century. The unprecedented initiative is testament to the continued power of literature to inspire the public so many years after these writers first put pen to paper,” he added. (Alison Flood)

Members of the public who wish to contribute to this once-in-a-lifetime effort can find the crowdfunding site here.

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