On Saturday, as part of a private group, we were given a talk by the archive's curator David McClay - a man of boundless knowledge and infectious enthusiasm - and his equally ardent colleague Rachel Beattie, two people whose passion for their work gladdens the heart! In addition to hearing about the library's acquisition of this incomparable piece of publishing history - all the papers of this unique family firm encompassing 7 generations over 237 years, its range including literature, science, travel and exploration and more - we had the chance to actually handle some of the documents.
Apologies for the quality of the photographs as they were taken hastily under artificial light, but they'll give you an idea of the treasures we saw. At the top of this post is some Jane Austen material, e.g. a ledger entry regarding the publication of Emma, a letter from Jane herself concerning the book, a royalty cheque for £38/18/1 in respect of sales of Emma, made out to Miss Jane Austin (her own signature on the reverse carries on the mis-spelling).
Above are more of Byron's papers, and with reference to the extensive crossings out in yesterday's picture, and more of the same here, as part of its digitisation programme the library is carrying out spectral analysis to reveal what may have faded or been deleted - Byron was going to a lot of trouble to make sure that what he initially put down would not stand, but such is modern technology that his efforts may have been in vain. Top left there is part of a letter from Lady Caroline Lamb to John Murray, but purporting to be from Byron himself, giving permission for a picture of him in the Murrays' possession to be given to Lady Caroline. The bit you can see (click to enlarge) is a note in Byron's own real hand stating that it is a forgery. Rachel told us that the Murrays claim their premises in London's Albemarle Street are haunted by Lady Caroline who spent a great deal of time there just hanging about on the off-chance that Lord B., with whom she was mightily obsessed, would drop in. Also pictured is the manuscript of Childe Harold, full of deletions, amendments and additional pages stuck in, many of them over-written scraps torn from other books.
We got our hands on all this and more, and if you ever get the chance to do the same, or to hear David and Rachel speak about the collection, take it!