Romantic literature saved for the nation

Click to follow
The Independent Culture

The greatest collection of Romantic literature in private hands, including a long-lost version of a poem by Coleridge, has been bought for the nation with the help of a £565,500 lottery grant.

The greatest collection of Romantic literature in private hands, including a long-lost version of a poem by Coleridge, has been bought for the nation with the help of a £565,500 lottery grant.

The collection, which includes the only complete set of Shelley first editions in Britain outside the British Library and rare editions of Keats, has been bought by the Wordsworth Trust. Many items will go on public display in a new centre in Grasmere next year.

The trust, which runs a museum dedicated to Wordsworth, has purchased the 1,300 items from Geoffrey Bindman, the human rights lawyer, for £640,000. The collection was started by his father Gerald, a GP who began to track down rare first editions in bookstores in the North-east in the 1920s, when they were still affordable.

Among the highlights are Annals of Fine Art 1820, the first publication of Keats's work, including "Ode to a Nightingale" and "Ode to a Grecian Urn", and a pirate edition of Shelley's Queen Mab, once thought so profane that the publisher was prosecuted. But the item that most excited the trust was an anthology that once belonged to Coleridge, containing his final annotations - long believed lost - to his early poem "Lewti".

Mr Bindman said he was sad to sell the books, but they were expensive to insure and needed environmentally controlled conditions. "I wanted the Wordsworth Trust to have them. I felt a certain responsibility," he said.

If the trust had not been able to raise the money, the collection would have been split up and sold at auction.

Comments