In a rare move, the Government is appealing for a buyer to pay £56,250 for the obscenity trial judge’s copy of Lady Chatterley’s Lover to stop it leaving the country.
The 1960 edition of D H Lawrence’s novel was sold at auction for the huge sum to an anonymous online bidder in October, well above the £15,000 asking price and a record for a Penguin paperback.
It was originally owned by Sir Laurence Byrne, the judge who presided over the landmark 1960 trial and contains his wife Dorothy’s annotations and two pages of notes with a list of page numbers and content summaries. She also sewed a blue-grey fabric bag for her husband to carry the book back and forth from court.
Now a temporary export bar has been imposed by Arts Minister Michael Ellis in the hope someone can match the selling price and keep it in the UK. It followed a recommendation from the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest (RCEWA), which advises the Government on cultural property.
The minister said: “The trial of Lady Chatterley’s Lover captured the public attention in 1960. It was a watershed moment in cultural history, when Victorian ideals were overtaken by a more modern attitude. I hope that a buyer can be found to keep this important part of our nation’s history in the UK.”
Before being put up for sale at Sotheby’s last year, the book was owned by art collector Stanley J Seeger, who died in 2011.
Chairman of the RCEWA Sir Hayden Phillips said: “Judge Byrne’s copy of the novel, annotated by him and his wife, may be the last surviving contemporary ‘witness’ who took part in the proceedings.
He added: “It would be more than sad, it would be a misfortune, if this last surviving ‘witness’ left our shores.”
The decision on the export licence application for the book will be deferred until 9th August this year. This may be extended until 9th October if a serious intention to raise funds to buy the item is made at the recommended price of £56,250.
Organisations or individuals interested in purchasing the book should contact the RCEWA on 0845 300 6200.
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