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Americans Join Fight to Save Scottish Literary History

A trio of Scottish heritage organizations are asking American supporters for help to save some of the United Kingdom’s most important literary artifacts. They have until the end of October to raise the $21 million needed.
By News Team
Published on October 15, 2021

Robert Burns First Common Place Book Robert Burns handwritten First Commonplace Book PHOTO: SOTHEBY’S

The Honresfield Library, a privately owned collection of manuscripts, letters, and first editions by British luminaries from Austen to Tennyson, was put up for public auction in London earlier this year.

The collection, which had been unseen by the public for almost a century, also includes Robert Burns’ earliest surviving poems in his First Commonplace Book and Sir Walter Scott’s handwritten manuscript for Rob Roy.

With the real possibility that these culturally priceless artifacts could be lost to private collectors or dispersed overseas, a consortium consisting of eight leading British libraries and museums, including Oxford’s Bodleian Library, the Brontë Parsonage Museum, and the British Library, was swiftly convened by The Friends of the National Libraries.

The collection's current owners agreed to delay the auction and have given the consortium until the end of October to raise the $21 million (£15 million) needed to commit to the purchase. To date, the group has secured $10.5 million (£7.5 million).

The Scottish members of the consortium Abbotsford, the National Library of Scotland and the National Trust for Scotland – have worked together to support the UK-wide appeal and have drawn up plans to bring collection items linked to Burns and Scott back to Scotland.

Now, the American Patrons of the National Library and Galleries of Scotland and The National Trust for Scotland Foundation USA (NTSUSA) are urging Americans who love Scotland to get involved.

If the money can be raised in time, the three Scottish consortium members will take joint care of the 40 items associated with Scotland in the collection, which have a combined value of $4 million (£2.75 million).

The pieces will be conserved so that they may be put on public display and made available for research. Plans for in-person and virtual programs, as well as loans to local venues in addition to regular and permanent exhibitions at the partners’ main locations, are underway.

Time is running out to raise the funds needed. To learn more about the Honresfield Library appeal or to make a tax-deductible donation, visit https://ntsusa.org/protect/honresfield-library/ or https://www.americanpatrons.org/ .

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