The National Library of Scotland is launching an appeal to repatriate some of Scotland's most important literary manuscripts, currently in private ownership.
The Honresfield Library is a tremendous collection almost entirely inaccessible since the 1930s. Its appearance on the open market has attracted the interest of a community of libraries, archives, and cultural heritage institutions across the UK. Please support our campaign to prevent this unparalleled collection of literary treasures being broken up, going overseas or going back into private hands.
Among the 500 manuscripts in this collection are items of great significance to Scotland. Robert Burns's handwritten letters to his family, lovers and patrons sit alongside discussions of his work penned by Byron, and novel fragments and travel journals written by Sir Walter Scott.
Two star items bring the importance of this collection to Scotland into sharp focus.
novel 'Rob Roy'. Image courtesy of Sotheby's.
The first, a 'Commonplace Book' compiled by Robert Burns between 1783-85 — when the Bard was yet to publish his work or achieve fame — contains his earliest surviving poems, notes and ideas.
The second is the working manuscript of the great novel 'Rob Roy'. Written in Sir Walter Scott's own hand, it is the only manuscript novel of his to remain in private hands.
These are lynchpins of Scottish literature, yet are at risk of being separated, dispersed and lost from public ownership.
An opportunity to safeguard the collection
Having been privately owned since the late 19th century, these manuscripts are now being sold at auction. As a member of a special consortium coordinated by the Friends of the National Libraries, we have succeeded in delaying the auction. We now have until the end of October to collectively raise £15 million to save this material for the nation. The value of the 40 'Scottish items' in the collection is £2.75 million.
We cannot let items of such cultural and historical value go abroad or into private hands. They should, and must, be added to the national, public collection.
The National Library of Scotland is therefore working together with the other Scottish members of the consortium — Abbotsford and the National Trust for Scotland — to raise the money needed to bring these giants of Scottish literature home. Please donate now if you can.
If you would like to discuss making a significant pledge to save the Honresfield Library, contact the Development team.
- If the consortium is successful in raising the funds required to secure the purchase of the Honresfield Library, your donation will be transferred to the Friends of the National Libraries who are coordinating the purchase on behalf of the consortium
- If the consortium is unsuccessful in raising the funds required to buy the Honresfield Library, we would like to use your donation to bid for individual items when they are auctioned on the open market, or alternatively similar manuscripts or archives that become available in future. Please let us know if you would prefer that this did not happen.