Posted by: rowenawilcox | March 5, 2010

Rare antiquarian books to remain in Wales

Bookworms of the future will have around 14,000 antiquarian library books to read as they will remain in the city under a new initiative.

Rare Bibles, Restoration and Quarto drama series’ and a limited collection of early Shakespeare volumes are among the haul secured by Cardiff Council, Cardiff University, the Welsh Assembly Government, and the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW).

The collection is of enormous historical and academic value and includes some of the earliest printed books dating back to 1500 (called incunabula), through to special press books produced in the early 20th century.  

Cardiff University’s Pro Vice-Chancellor for Education and Students, Professor Jonathan Osmond said: “Developed over the last two centuries as part of Cardiff’s heritage, these books reflect all of the major stages in book production from the earliest printed works to modern fine bindings, and touch upon many of the cultural and literary trends in Europe from the sixteenth century onwards.”

The collection will be held at Cardiff University’s Arts and Social Studies Library on Colum Drive and once conservation work has been carried out on the books, members of the public will be able to access the collection.

In time, digitised versions of some of the works will be accessible via the internet.

Some items in the collection are not held in any other library collection in the world, but the real value lies in the groupings of works.

A major set of 17th century editions of Shakespeare, for example, is extremely rare, and the coverage of the restoration drama collection appears to be unique.

The books were due to be sold through public auction in London but after leading academics and members of the public raised concerns about the collection leaving the city, leading to the launch of the successful scheme.

Cardiff Council’s Executive member for Sport Leisure and Culture, Nigel Howells, said: ” This is the best solution for the city as the books will remain in Cardiff and will be accessible by the public if required.”

Heritage Minster, Alun Ffred Jones said of the announcement: “I am delighted by the University’s plans to raise the profile of the collection by digitising and making books from the collection available online.

“This will ensure that even more people from Wales and the rest of the world are able to access free of charge information from one of Wales’ important cultural assets” he added.

Cardiff University, the Welsh Assembly Government, and HEFCW are contributing financial support totalling £1.2 million to facilitate the transfer of the collection to Cardiff University, for the benefit of the people of Cardiff and Wales.

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