Support for lottery bid but decision deferred over priceless archive
The Heritage Lottery Fund has given its support to a multi-million pound treasure trove of literary works, but a decision on a funding bid by the National Library of Scotland has been deferred.
The HLF trustees have recognised the importance of retaining the John Murray Archive for the nation, but need more time to consider how to fund the application.
The National Library had already secured £6.5m from the Scottish Executive and was committed to raising a further £6.5m towards the purchase of the world renowned John Murray Archive. However, the Heritage Lottery Fund has deferred a decision on the Library's £22m bid until January 2005.
Martyn Wade, National Librarian said: 'We welcome the HLF's support and commitment to the project, and The National Library of Scotland will do everything it can to work with the HLF and other partners to ensure that this magnificent archive remains in the United Kingdom.'
Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport, Frank McAveety said: 'The acquisition of the archive would be a significant enhancement to the National Library of Scotland's contribution to Scottish Executive priorities, including the promotion of Scotland worldwide, support for research, education and lifelong learning, and the generation of economic benefits. The John Murray Archive provides a link to the critical role that Scots have played in the development of ideas and imagination through the centuries, and the Heritage Lottery Fund assessment clearly recognises it as such. I understand the significant funding pressures that HLF faces, but it is disappointing that they have not yet felt able to award the total amount required to purchase the John Murray Archive.'
The collection had been offered to the National Library of Scotland for just over £33m. Experts believe the true market value of the archive to be in the region of at least £45m. It had been offered to the National Library at a reduced price in order that the collection is kept in the United Kingdom.
The archive, comprises private letters, manuscripts and other correspondence from figures including Jane Austen, Lord Byron, Sir Walter Scott, Benjamin Disraeli, Herman Melville, Charles Darwin, David Livingstone, Thomas Carlyle, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Edith Wharton.
It is a who's who of great authors and thinkers. It contains many literary and historical treasures along with political, scientific, engineering, travel and exploration material providing a rich source of information on British life and society over three centuries.
If the sale goes ahead John Murray will establish a charitable trust to support access to, and preservation of, the archive. This will include a donation of £3m to the National Library to cover the day-to-day running costs of the archive. No member of the Murray family will benefit personally from the sale.
John Murray VII, a descendent of the Murray publishing family which was based in London, wants the collection to be placed in the National Library of Scotland because of the strong Scottish connections and the fact that John Murray I was born in Edinburgh. He also recognises that the Library would ensure the widest possible access to the archive.
Martyn Wade, National Librarian, and Professor Michael Anderson, Chairman of the Board of Trustees for the National Library of Scotland, are available for interview on Wednesday 21 July.
Images of treasures from the archive are available.
To arrange interviews or to request images, please contact Alda Forbes on 0131-622 4821 or 07990 683 540 (mobile) or Helen Loughlin on 0131-622 4807.
National Library of Scotland
George IV Bridge
20 July 2004