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Libraries 'not told' Keele's maths collection was for sale



Libraries 'not told' Keele's maths collection was for sale

 By Aisling Irwin, Science Correspondent


SOME of Britain's most distinguished libraries disclosed yesterday
that they had been left in the dark over the hurried sale of an
extensive collection of rare manuscripts by Keele University.
The libraries said that, had they known, they might have been able to
raise the UKPounds:1 million for the collection, which included the
first three editions of Newton's Principia, as well as one of his
manuscripts and books from his library, marked with his own
annotations. They were reacting to news that the university had sold
the entire collection to a non-British private collector who has
obtained export licences for parts of it.
Mathematicians responded in fury to the news on Monday when they
heard of the sale, which was only discovered when an academic
attempted to view one of the books at Keele. A Keele spokesman said:
"Other institutions were consulted about the possibilities of keeping
it in public hands". But he would not specify which ones. Leading
libraries in the field said yesterday that they were not consulted.
At Trinity College, Cambridge, where Newton was a fellow, Dr David
McKitterick, the librarian, said: "The first solid news I heard of it
was on Saturday night. Keele never consulted me. Some libraries would
have worked extremely hard to pay. UKPounds:1 million would not have
been impossible."
Cambridge University Library confirmed that it knew nothing of the
sale, as did the Royal Society and Clive Hurst, the head of rare
manuscripts at the Bodleian Library in Oxford. Experts said they were
particularly upset that the manuscript had gone to a private collector
because it was bequeathed to Keele University specifically to open
access to valuable manuscripts to ordinary students and scholars.
The donation was made by Charles Turner, an eccentric civil servant
whose flat in the top floor of a house in Wimbledon was lined with
shelf upon shelf of antiquarian mathematics books. His obsession led
him to deprive himself of the luxuries of life, even going without a
winter coat.
Prof David Ingram, former head of physics at Keele University, who
used to frequent the house as a boy, said: "It was a minimum house.
There wasn't any expensive furniture. There was a slightly musty kind
of feeling rather like a house in Victorian times. He lived on his own
and this was his main interest in life. He was a quiet kind of chap,
very polite, a charming gentleman."
Prof Ingram, now retired, lived on the same street as a schoolboy. He
said"I went along and admired his books and he was very taken with
this." After he joined Keele in 1959 as head of physics, Mr Turner
offered the university his collection.






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