PEN’s GoFundMe campaign helps University of Bristol acquire ‘significantly important’ copy of Lady Chatterley’s Lover

We’re delighted to announce that the annotated copy of Lady Chatterley’s Lover by DH Lawrence used by the judge in the landmark obscenity trial of 1960 has been acquired by the University of Bristol, thanks to the GoFundMe campaign launched by English PEN.

Sold at auction by Sotheby’s in October 2018 to a private individual, the copy of Lawrence’s final novel used by Mr Justice Byrne at the Old Bailey became the subject of export deferral by the UK Government. A process was initiated to find a UK buyer who would match the auction price and provide access to the book for researchers and the public.

The export deferral captured media attention worldwide and led us to launch a campaign on GoFundMe which raised over £20,000 to help keep the book in the UK.

Supporters of the crowdfunding campaign include Lady Chatterley’s Lover’s original publishers Penguin Books and the TS Eliot Foundation, as well as writers including Neil Gaiman, Amanda Palmer and Stephen Fry who tweeted that the book was an ‘enticing and important object’ that should stay in the UK. 

Philippe Sands QC, President of English PEN, said:

We are thrilled that our crowdfunding campaign for this historic work by DH Lawrence, an active member of English PEN and a central figure in the annals of English literary history, has been a success.

The trial involving Lady Chatterley’s Lover was a seminal moment in the continuing struggle for freedom of expression, and the judge’s copy belongs here in the UK, a singular reminder of the road travelled and remaining.

Amanda Palmer, who together with her husband Neil Gaiman donated five annotated copies of the book to auction, said:

The fact that this book-salvation was crowd-powered gives me a lot of hope. People are finally starting to figure out that their collective power to overturn the system is vaster than they ever could have imagined – from climate-saving to book-saving.

Neil Gaiman added:

I was born the day after
Lady Chatterley was made legal. Keeping this copy in the UK was important. That a crowd of people came together to contribute is proof that the internet is actually good for something. 

Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Provost at the University of Bristol, Professor Judith Squires, added:

This special book will be a source of inspiration, teaching and research for our staff, students and visitors, supporting the University’s creative, scholarly and social outcomes for years to come.

It will be a focal point in our new University Library, which is planned to open in 2023/4, providing specialist research facilities, galleries and public event spaces.

Rebecca Sinclair, Brand and Communications Director at Penguin Random House UK, said:

The book marks a cornerstone of Penguin’s heritage and our continued dedication to freedom of expression. We’re pleased that this copy will find a home in the University of Bristol’s archives, alongside the Penguin Archive and many other materials relevant to the trial, where it will remain accessible to the public for years to come.

Clare Reihill, Trustee of the TS Eliot Foundation, said:

An important object in our jurisprudential history, an emblem of our hard-won freedoms of speech. Having personally fought against the novel’s suppression, I can safely say TS Eliot himself would be thrilled by this outcome.

In addition to the funds from the English PEN crowdsourcing, financial support has also been given by Friends of the National Libraries, the Penguin Collectors Society and Elizabeth Lane, daughter of the late Richard Lane, Penguin Books.

The University of Bristol has also stepped up to the challenge of retaining this symbolic book within the UK and is proactively seeking financial support from alumni and friends of the University to reach the rest of the total purchase price, ensuring this special book can be shared as a source of knowledge and inspiration with as wide an audience as possible.

The annotated Penguin Books edition of the novel will be housed in the Library as part of the Penguin Archive, held by the University’s Special Collections. Read more about the archive here.

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