Letter: Literature under the hammer

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The Independent Online
Sir: Will someone please tell me what is happening to the stock of British public libraries? I recently visited the Chelsea Library in the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea to do some research and was informed that the celebrated botany collection (with original editions and prints) is being sent for auction at Sotheby's in the next few months. I was also told it had been decided that, as there was 'no place for literature in reference libraries', the specially bound copies of works by Dickens and other great English writers would be accorded the same fate.

Furthermore, I understand that Westminster City Libraries is sending for auction its volumes of Le Vedute di Roma and Capricciosa by Piranesi. There seems to be a conspiracy among avaricious local authorities to sell works of art and books (many of them bequests to libraries) for the sake of replenishing their coffers. Several dedicated librarians and curators have spent years building up these magnificent collections for the use of the community and posterity. Must they be allowed to be hewn down by uncaring councillors at the drop of an auctioneer's hammer?

Yours sincerely,

NORMAN PIERCE

London, W10

10 May

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