Oct

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Bristol University is finalising funding to make the purchase after the government temporarily stopped the export of the book in May this year.

It was sold to a US collector at the auction of the collection of Stanley J Seeger at Sotheby’s in October 2018 for a hammer price of £45,000.

The government was asking for a buyer to match £56,250 (the hammer price plus fees) to keep it in the UK.

English PEN raised more than £20,000 and further funds are being raised by Friends of the National Libraries, the Penguin Collectors Society and Elizabeth Lane, daughter of the late Richard Lane (Penguin co-founder), Penguin Books and the University of Bristol’s alumni and friends.

The annotated copy of DH Lawrence’s work had belonged to Sir Laurence Byrne, the judge who presided over the 1960 case.

The trial is now regarded as a defining moment in British social history, marking the move toward a more liberal and permissive society. The prosecution in the trial asked the now famous question: “Is it a book that you would have lying around in your own house? Is it a book that you would wish your wife or your servants to read?”

Sir Lawrence carried the book into the famous obscenity trial in a damask bag stitched by his wife, Lady Dorothy. The book has annotated notes by her and she also made notes on Central Criminal Court-headed notepaper on her opinion of the language used in the book, which were also part of the lot sold at Sotheby’s.

Once the purchase is complete, Bristol’s Law School will display it in its special collections as part of the Penguin Archive which includes personal papers relating to the case by Sir Allen Lane, the co-founder of Penguin Books, as well as transcripts of the trial, press cuttings, photographs, papers and personal copies of the book by key Penguin staff. Bristol University will later house the book in its new library due to open in 2023/24.

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.”