Funding towards John Murray Archive purchase

World renowned literary archive secured for Scotland

The most important literary archive to have become publicly available in the last 100 years is on its way to Scotland thanks to a multi-million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The HLF has agreed to give £17.7 million towards the purchase of the John Murray Archive which will allow the National Library of Scotland (NLS) to complete the sale.

The John Murray Archive contains private letters, manuscripts and other correspondence from Jane Austen, Lord Byron, Sir Walter Scott, Benjamin Disraeli, Herman Melville, Charles Darwin, David Livingstone, Thomas Carlyle, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Edith Wharton, among others. It has been independently valued at £45 million but has been offered for sale to NLS at a reduced price of £31.2 million in order to keep the collection in the United Kingdom.

The National Librarian Martyn Wade said HLF's decision was wonderful news for Scotland and for the Library. 'It is fantastic to secure such a unique and important collection for Scotland. There is still a lot to do, not least to achieve our own fundraising target of £6.5 million, but the HLF grant means that our funding package is now in place. It will allow us to go forward to complete the purchase.'

'We will now sit down with all interested parties and draw up a timetable for bringing the archive to Scotland and ensure it is available for everyone to use and enjoy. It is entirely fitting that the archive will be housed in Edinburgh, the first UNESCO World City of Literature and there is no doubt that it will enhance Scotland's cultural reputation both at home and overseas. This is a great day for the National Library and for Scotland as a whole. It is also important that this archive has been saved for the United Kingdom.'

The John Murray Archive contains more than 150,000 items. It is a literary treasure trove as well as being 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.

It has been independently valued at £45 million but was offered for sale to NLS at a substantially reduced price of £33.2 million in order to keep the collection in the United Kingdom.

In recent weeks NLS had negotiated an additional £2 million reduction in the price with the seller, John Murray to bring it down to £31.2 million. In addition, the Scottish Executive agreed to find another £1.8 million to increase its contribution to £8.3 million and NLS put in an additional £500,000. All of this reduced the amount being requested from HLF to a maximum of £17.7 million.

26 January 2005

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