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Thomas Hardy’s design for a service sheet and memorial for the interment of his father at Stinsford church, 1892. This item is among an archive bought by Dorset History Centre. Image courtesy of Dorset History Centre.

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The archives were sold by dealership Maggs Bros and had been in private hands for decades. 

The £50,000 price was raised from a number of sources. including public donations as well as £25,000 and £20,000 respectively from the Arts Council England/V&A Purchase Fund and Friends of the National Libraries.  

Sam Johnston, service manager for Archives at the Dorset History Centre, said: “The fundraising process demonstrated very clearly to me how powerful the draw of Thomas Hardy is – in archival terms, few things excite people’s interest locally and more widely than TH.”

The collection consists of 46 separate elements and includes books which once formed part of Hardy’s own library at Max Gate including the schoolboy Hardy’s annotated copy of Horace and his personal edition of Pouncy’s Dorsetshire Photographically Illustrated. 

Carola Campbell, DAT chairman, said: “Particularly exciting are the new insights this once hidden treasure of archival material reveals about the private thoughts and life of Thomas Hardy.”

Items included letters from Hardy, such as one giving a clear expression of the author’s interest in animal welfare, and a poem, penned by the author referring to the embarkation of soldiers for service in the Boer War. There was also a typescript of the speech he delivered at the opening of Dorchester Grammar School in 1925.