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Murray Archive Sold 2005-01-27

Posted by clype in Humanities, Money, Scotland.

'The John Murray Archive' was secured for Scotland yesterday, though it came with a 31.2 million GBP price tag.

'The National Library of Scotland' won a 17.7 million GBP lottery grant, the biggest ever awarded in Scotland, to help buy the unique collection of original letters and manuscripts by Lord Byron, David Livingstone, Jane Austen and many others.

'The Scottish Executive', meanwhile, confirmed that it was putting up a total of 8.3 million GBP — 2 million GBP more than it promised last year — to help buy the archive. Ms.Patricia Ferguson, the culture minister, said:

'The significance of this magnificent news for Scotland cannot be overstated. We are set to secure literature's jewel in the crown. '"The John Murray Archive" is the most historically significant literary archive to become publicly available in the past hundred years.

'Bringing it to Scotland is an immense achievement and credit to the staff at "The National Library of Scotland" who made an ambitious and compelling case for securing the archive'.

However, the purchase has had its critics, led by the chairman of 'The Booker Prize' judges, Mr.John Sutherland, a professor at 'The University of London'.

He warned yesterday that the deal could drive the price of literary manuscripts sky high. 'The John Murray Archive' has been dubbed 'a national asset' that will bring researchers from round the world tripping to 'The National Library of Scotland's' door.

Over 150 years from 1768, 'The John Murray Publishing House', founded in London by a Scottish family, amassed 150 000 original manuscripts, letters and documents by writers and explorers from Sir Walter Scott to Charles Darwin.

Offered to Scotland by the Murray family at a discount price, it has been described as the only collection of its kind to come on to the market in generations.

The archive includes letters from William Wordsworth and JM Barrie, the 'Peter Pan' creator who is the subject of the hit film Neverland.

It also boasts papers and letters from a host of people central to the history of Scottish letters and science, including Livingstone, Charles Darwin, Thomas Carlyle, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Sir Walter Scott, among others.

The year-long drive to secure the papers played a prominent role in Edinburgh's bid to be declared UNESCO's first 'City of Literature'.

The archive would have raised about 45 million GBP if it had been broken up and sold, with items such as letters between Lord Byron and his lover, Lady Caroline Lamb, worth a huge sum.

The library said it had managed to knock 2 million GBP off the 33.2 million GBP price asked by Mr.John Murray-7. The money is to go to a charitable trust run by the Murray family.

But the first 3 million GBP will be 'ploughed straight back' into a trust that will help 'The National Library of Scotland' look after the archive.

'Scotland hits the literary jackpot', Tim Cornwell, The Scotsman, 2005-01-27

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