You may have heard about the campaign by the University of Kent and Canterbury Cathedral to
, a historic library of manuscripts and printed material.
Its founder, Joseph Mendham (1769-1856), was an Anglican vicar and, in the carefully chosen words of the Dictionary of National Biography, a ‘religious controversialist’.
The collection was given to the Law Society in the 1860s, and then loaned by them to the University of Kent and Canterbury Cathedral in 1984. The collection is rich in incunabula and other early printed material, as well as in theology and liturgy from the late middle ages up to Mendham's own day. You can browse through the collection's holdings on the University's library catalogue by looking up the keyword 'Mendham'.
Although we have an agreement with the Law Society until the end of 2013, they have suddenly decided to sell the most valuable items at auction to plug a hole in their finances. On 18 July, Sotheby's took away about 300 of the most valuable books.
Colleagues in and beyond Kent are extremely distressed by this and are hoping to draw attention to the plight of the collection. We are entreating the Law Society to pause so that we can try to find a way to preserve the collection intact for current and future researchers. We have sympathy for the Law Society's financial predicament but are nonetheless horrified that this historic collection is to be sacrificed to alleviate what seems to be a short-term problem.
We have been delighted with the response from across the world to our petition, which has attracted more than 2800 signatures since it was launched on 19 July. We hope that we can keep the momentum going: please consider signing it, and forwarding it on to people you think might be interested!
With many thanks,
Records for the Mendham Collection on the University of Kent's library catalogue
Press releases: http://www.kent.ac.uk/news/latest.html
Follow the campaign on twitter: #mendham and @alixebovey
Joseph Mendham in the Dictionary of National Biography [paywall]
Recent news coverage in the Independent, the Sunday Times [paywall], and the Mail Online (!)
Blog posts by Katie Birkwood and Elaine Traherne
Dr Alixe Bovey
Chair, Mendham Collection Task Force
Director of the Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies
& Senior Lecturer in Medieval History
School of History
University of Kent