Fundraisers look to US to help buy archive

AMERICAN readers are to be targeted by Scots fundraisers to help buy a massive literary archive for the nation.

Expatriate Scots living in the United States are to be asked to help raise the 6.5m-plus shortfall in funding to buy the John Murray Archive for the National Library of Scotland. But those behind the scheme also hope literature-loving Americans of all ancestral backgrounds will contribute to the fund.

The Murray Archive, valued at around 45m, contains more than 150,000 original manuscripts, private letters and other papers from writers including Lord Byron, Charles Darwin, Sir Walter Scott and Benjamin Disraeli.

National Library director of development, Giles Dove, confirmed the US would be a focus for fundraising.

He said the main fundraising effort would focus on the UK, but added: "The expatriate community is one we will look at as part of the portfolio.

"But it won't just be expatriates, but Americans generally who have a passion for literature.

"This archive is internationally important. That's why we have spoken to people internationally and we've already had interest from the US and indeed other places overseas."

Mr Dove said it was hoped the collection could be in its new home next year, even though the fundraising effort is likely to take three years.

The Heritage Lottery Fund is likely to approve a 17.7m grant in March to help fund the bid, the biggest lottery award ever made in Scotland.

The Scottish Executive has also chipped in with a pledge to put up more than 8m towards the purchase.

And the National Library has put up 500,000 of its own money - but that still leaves a major shortfall in the 31.2m price being asked by the Murray family, as well as nearly 2m which will be needed to put the collection on show.

The archive, regarded as one of the world's most important, was started by Edinburgh-born publisher John Murray, who established the family firm in London in 1786.

Currently held in London by the descendants of the original John Murray, the collection includes letters between Lord Byron and his lover, Lady Caroline Lamb.

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