Friends of the National Libraries SAVES literary treasure trove for the nation in an unprecedented rescue of the UK’s literary heritage

Friends of the National Libraries (FNL) has successfully raised over £15 million to acquire the Honresfield Library for the nation. The collection includes manuscripts by the Brontës, Jane Austen, Robert Burns and Sir Walter Scott.

FNL will donate every manuscript and printed book to libraries and writers' houses across the UK so that they are accessible to everyone.

HRH The Prince of Wales, Patron of FNL, said:

“It is tremendous news for our country that Friends of the National Libraries, a charity of which I am proud to be Patron, has raised £15 million in just five months to save one of the most significant collections, including manuscripts by Charlotte Brontë, Walter Scott and Robert Burns.

I can only congratulate the Chairman, Geordie Greig, and his team for saving the Blavatnik Honresfield Library for the nation, with its treasures now to be owned by some of our greatest national libraries across the U.K. Our literary heritage is our cultural D.N.A. and this preserves it for students, teachers, academics and ordinary readers in perpetuity.”

About FNL

FNL, the leading UK charity devoted to saving the nation’s written and printed heritage, is delighted to announce that it has successfully raised over £15 million to acquire the Honresfield Library for the nation.

This library was formed towards the end of the 19th century by William Law (1836-1901), a Rochdale mill owner, who created an exceptional collection of English and Scottish manuscripts and printed books that had the Brontës at its heart, as well as manuscripts in the hands of Jane Austen, Robert Burns and Sir Walter Scott and a significant collection of printed books. It has been largely inaccessible for the last 80 years.

When the sale of the library in three tranches was announced in May 2021, FNL successfully encouraged Sotheby’s, the agents for the vendors, to postpone the sale of the first tranche planned for July 2021 in order to give FNL the opportunity to purchase the entire collection outright on behalf of appropriate recipient libraries within the UK.

FNL has successfully raised £15.3 million, of which the purchase price is £15 million, and the balance is a combination of VAT and fees. FNL’s success has ensured that the collection will remain permanently in the public domain and will never be lost to overseas institutions or to private collections that are not accessible to the public.

Principal benefactor

FNL, and its consortium of libraries and writers houses, are profoundly grateful to our lead donor Sir Leonard Blavatnik who has, with exceptional munificence, match-funded the sum raised by FNL and the consortium institutions. He has donated half the purchase price. In recognition of his great generosity, the collection will henceforth be known as the Blavatnik Honresfield Library.

It is an extraordinary donation, the largest ever given to the UK  by an individual for a literary treasure, safeguarding for the nation the most significant collection of manuscripts and books at risk of dispersal for many decades.

Other benefactors

This acquisition has also been made possible thanks to the vital and generous support of the National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF). The NHMF’s grant of £4 million is the largest it has ever awarded towards the acquisition of literary manuscripts since its foundation in 1980.

Read more about our other generous benefactors

The of contents of the Blavatnik Honresfield library

At the heart of the Blavatnik Honresfield Library lies an astonishing set of manuscripts in the hands of Charlotte, Emily and Anne Brontë, much of which has been unseen for 80 years and never properly examined.

Find out more about the contents of the library

Watch a short film here

What people are saying

Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries said:

"I am so delighted by the astonishing fundraising by Friends of the National Libraries and the great match funding donation by Sir Leonard Blavatnik to save this literary treasure trove for Britain. £15m raised in five months is incredible."

Geordie Greig, Chairman of FNL, said: 

“The generosity of all the donors has been incredible in saving this unique library, especially Sir Leonard Blavatnik, who wonderfully matched the £7.5m that we had raised ensuring that our campaign to save the collection was successful."

Ros Kerslake CBE, Chief Executive of the NHMF said:

"We at the National Heritage Memorial Fund are delighted to have supported the campaign to save the Blavatnik Honresfield Library with £4million, the largest amount we have ever granted towards an acquisition of literary manuscripts since our formation in 1980.

Conclusion

The benefits of this endeavour are manifold. The literary cornucopia will now belong permanently to the public domain in the UK. The manuscripts and printed books which have been inaccessible for some 80 years, will now all be available for study by scholars, researchers, visitors and everyone. All items in the Blavatnik Honresfield Library will remain in selected libraries within the UK, and will thereby augment existing collections of literary works by all four principal authors. Finally, the allocation policy will principally benefit libraries outside London.

FNL is delighted to have played a part in securing this exceptional collection for the nation and to have helped to distribute its greatest items to appropriate libraries and writer’s houses throughout the UK.


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FNL, PO Box 4291, Reading, Berkshire, RG8 9JA | Registered Charity No. 313020
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