Monday, 23 July 2012

Law Society response to an email about the #Mendham collection

My last post reported on the forced dispersal of the most valuable books and manuscripts from the Mendham collection held by the University of Kent and Canterbury Cathedral on behalf of the Law Society.  Last Wednesday this I emailed the Law Society. My message had too main points:
  • to express my dismay about the break-up of the collection 
  • and to comment that this seemed particularly egregious if--as has been stated--there was an agreement at the time of the donation of the collection to the society that it would be held intact.
On Friday I received a response from a member of the Society's library staff.  The gist of the message is that:
  • The society is grateful to the University and Cathedral for looking after the collection
  • The society recognises that the collection is valuable to 'religious historians'
  • The society exists to serve solicitors in England and Wales and a collection of 'historic religious documents' doesn't help with this purpose
  • The decision to sell wasn't taken lightly and
  • The society has made it cleat that they would be happy to sell the collection to the University and Cathedral.
I didn't write to the society expecting them suddenly, through the power of my words, to change their decision, but simply to register my opinion. So this response--which seems both to misunderstand the contents of the collection ('historic religious documents'?) and their scholarly value (the collection is of interest in fields beyond just religious history)--isn't a shock, or a great disappointment, but it is rather sad.

ETA (24/7/2012): In case you haven't already seen it, there's a petition against the dispersal of the collection (further information about the petition).


  1. It looks as if this is identical to the reply I received.
    I share your dismay completely.
    What other ways can pressure be brought to bear on Law Society.
    Can they be publicly embarrassed?


  2. And perhaps Sotheby's should be embarrassed to receive the material?

  3. It looks identical to the response received by the Historic Libraries Forum too!