Last month, Sotheby’s announced that the manuscripts, first editions, letters and bindings that make up the legendary Honresfield Library - assembled with passion by self-made Victorian industrialists William and Alfred Law at the turn of the 20th century - were to be offered at auction in a series of three auctions starting in July 2021.
Working together with the UK charity Friends of the National Libraries (FNL), Sotheby’s has agreed to postpone the commencement of the auctions to allow for negotiations for the entirety of the library to be acquired by a consortium of institutions for the nation. The FNL has launched an appeal with an additional donation from its own resources and will be working over the next months to fundraise with the public and private philanthropists. Institutions involved include the Bodleian Libraries, the British Library, The National Library of Scotland, Brontë Parsonage Museum, Robert Burns Birthplace Museum, Brotherton Library (University of Leeds), Abbotsford (The Home Of Sir Walter Scott) and Jane Austen’s House, among others.
Dr Gabriel Heaton, Sotheby’s English Literature & Historical Manuscripts Specialist, said: “Sotheby’s has a great history of working together with private collectors and institutions and we are pleased to play our part in this potential outcome for this great library. This proposed acquisition is a fitting tribute to the Law brothers’ voracious literary interests and their family’s excellent care of this material for over a century. The unprecedented initiative is testament to the continued power of literature to inspire the public so many years after these writers first put pen to paper.”