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Copy of Lady Chatterley’s Lover used in obscenity trial acquired by university

The copy of DH Lawrence’s book will be kept with papers from the judge in the landmark case.

D H Lawrence’s book, Lady Chatterley’s Lover, sold out hours after being released (PA Archive/PA)
D H Lawrence’s book, Lady Chatterley’s Lover, sold out hours after being released (PA Archive/PA)

By Claire Hayhurst, PA

The copy of Lady Chatterley’s Lover used by the judge in its landmark obscenity trial has been acquired by the University of Bristol.

DH Lawrence’s book will be housed along with personal papers, notes and correspondence relating to the 1960 case by Sir Allen Lane, publisher and co-founder of Penguin Books.

There are also transcripts of the trial, press cuttings, photographs, papers and personal copies of the book by key Penguin staff.

Working papers, witness statements and correspondence by Michael Rubenstein, Penguin’s lawyer in the trial, are also at the archive.

The book, used by Mr Justice Byrne at the Old Bailey, was sold at auction by Sotheby’s to a private individual in the US in October last year and became the subject of export deferral by the UK Government.

The trial involving Lady Chatterley’s Lover was a seminal moment in the continuing struggle for freedom of expression Philippe Sands

A process was initiated to find a UK buyer who would match the auction price and provide access to the book for researchers and the public.

This led to a crowdfunding campaign by English PEN, founding centre of PEN International – a worldwide writers’ association that works to defend writers and freedom of expression.

The campaign was supported by writers including Neil Gaiman, Amanda Palmer and Stephen Fry.

Philippe Sands QC, president of English PEN, said: “We are thrilled that our crowdfunding campaign for this historic work by DH Lawrence, an active member of English PEN and a central figure in the annals of English literary history, has been a success.

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Sir Allen Lane, chairman of Penguin Books, during a press conference at the company’s offices in High Holborn, London, after an Old Bailey jury had reached a verdict that means Lady Chatterley’s Lover could be published in Britain (Archive/PA)

“The trial involving Lady Chatterley’s Lover was a seminal moment in the continuing struggle for freedom of expression, and the judge’s copy belongs here in the UK, a singular reminder of the road travelled and remaining.”

Financial support was also given by Penguin Books, the TS Eliot Foundation, Friends of the National Libraries, the Penguin Collectors Society and Elizabeth Lane.

The university is now seeking financial assistance from alumni and supporters of the university to reach the rest of the total purchase price.

Professor Judith Squires, deputy vice chancellor of the University of Bristol, said: “This special book will be a source of inspiration, teaching and research for our staff, students and visitors, supporting the University’s creative, scholarly and social outcomes for years to come.

“It will be a focal point in our new University Library, which is planned to open in 2023/4, providing specialist research facilities, galleries and public event spaces.”

The full unedited edition of Lady Chatterley’s Lover was published by Penguin in 1960, leading to the trial of the company under the Obscene Publications Act 1959.

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Parcels of paper-backed copies of Lady Chatterley’s Lover are seen being stacked on a fork-lift truck at the Harmondsworth, Middlesex factory of Penguin Books (PA)

This act made it possible for publishers to escape conviction if they could show that a work was of literary merit.

The not guilty verdict was delivered on November 2 in 1960.

Penguin’s second edition of the book, published in 1961, contains a dedication reading: “For having published this book, Penguin Books was prosecuted under the Obscene Publications Act, 1959 at the Old Bailey in London from 20 October to 2 November 1960.

“This edition is therefore dedicated to the twelve jurors, three women and nine men, who returned a verdict of ‘not guilty’ and thus made DH Lawrence’s last novel available for the first time to the public in the United Kingdom.”

PA

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