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UK Billionaire Saves Rare Austen, Brontë Works From Auction by Helping Raise Rs 150 Crore

The Honresfield library took its shape in the late 18th century. Credits: Representative image

The Honresfield library took its shape in the late 18th century. Credits: Representative image

Honresfield library, a literary treasure trove in UK, was saved from auction by the timely intervention of UK's richest man and two charities.

With the help of a collaboration between a charity and the richest man in the United Kingdom, an antique library containing rare works of literature, including those of Jane Austen and Brontë Sisters, has been saved from getting auctioned. A total of £15 million, around Rs 152.4 crore, was raised to save it. As a result, the library and the rare literary works will now remain within the United Kingdom. The Honresfield library took its shape in the late 18th century and was built by two Victorian industrialists, Alfred and William Law. The library vanished from public view in the 1930s and was never seen until earlier this year. The Honresfield library is a treasure of literary works, containing more than 500 manuscripts, rare first editions, artifacts, and letters, reported The Independent.

Some of the popular works hidden in the haven of literature are Walter Scott’s Rob Roy, Robert Burns’ First Commonplace Book, handwritten manuscripts, edits, ‘little books’ and poems by the Brontë sisters. It also has two significant letters written by Jane Austen to her sister Cassandra, which consists of the foundational notes to her very famous works Pride and Prejudice, and Sense and Sensibility.

Standing on the brink of getting sold to the open market, this precious library was saved by the wealthiest man in the United Kingdom, Sir Leonard Blavatnik. The Ukrainian billionaire paid half the amount needed to save it from getting auctioned. The rest of the amount was majorly raised by a charity called Friends of National Library (FNL). The National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF) also sourced £4 million (roughly Rs 40.6 crore).

“This is a collection like no other that has come to market in decades. We were amazed and delighted at the incredible ambition of the FNL’s plan to acquire the whole library. They deserve every credit for bringing their campaign to a successful conclusion,” said Dr Gabriel Heaton, English Literature and Historical Manuscripts Specialist, Sotheby’s, in a press release.

It was on the appeal made by FNL to Sotheby’s that the organisation halted the auction for some time. Meanwhile, FNL approached private and public donors and managed to raise the amount needed to save the library and keep it in the nation. The rare literary works found in the library will now be sourced to various national universities and educational institutions.

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first published:December 17, 2021, 18:10 IST