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16 December 2021

Charles Russell Speechlys advises on the Friends of the National Libraries’ (FNL) acquisition of the Honresfield Library

The Honresfield Library is one of the most important private collections of manuscripts and printed books associated with some of the greatest writers in the United Kingdom. It has been largely inaccessible for the last 100 years, and its contents have not been examined by scholars since the 1930s. The collection includes original manuscripts by the Brontë siblings, Jane Austen, Sir Walter Scott and Robert Burns.

Working with generous individual philanthropists, the National Heritage Memorial Fund and a consortium of libraries, the FNL has raised the substantial funds needed to secure this extraordinary collection for the benefit of everyone in the UK and prevented the collection from being broken up at auction and dispersed. The library of manuscripts and printed books will be distributed as gifts to major libraries and writers' houses museums throughout the UK from Yorkshire to Edinburgh, Oxford, and London, enabling wider access to this important collection for the first time in almost a century.

The FNL has helped to save the nation’s written and printed history since its foundation in 1931. It does this by awarding grants to national, regional and specialist collecting libraries enabling them to acquire rare books, manuscripts, literary archives, fine bindings, and estate archives that would otherwise be lost to the public domain and, in many cases, to the nation.

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.

"There has been unprecedented public interest in this collection of manuscripts and books hidden for almost a century. Rescuing it has seemed a little like opening an Egyptian tomb to see for the first-time ancient texts and treasures which are now saved in perpetuity for students, scholars, and booklovers. Thanks to FNL’s successful campaign the collection will be shared by libraries and writers’ houses all across our island, restoring a treasure trove of manuscripts to their birthplaces."

Rudy Capildeo, Partner and Co-Head of Charles Russell Speechlys’ Art & Luxury law team, commented:

"We have been honoured to assist the Friends of the National Libraries to secure this historical collection for the benefit of the nation. We were delighted to use our leading experience dealing with objects of historical and cultural importance to the advantage of the Friends of the National Libraries but also by association to some of the most important libraries and institutions that span the breadth of the country."

The Charles Russell Speechlys team was led by Rudy Capildeo, with support from Chris Haywood (Senior Associate, Art & Luxury), Jil Birnbaum (Paralegal, Art & Luxury) and Francesca Sidhu (Trainee Solicitor, Private Wealth Disputes).

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