Organisations involved in plans to sell some of Wales’ oldest and rarest books say they have “agreed a way ahead”.
Cardiff council proposals to sell up to 18,000 items eventually have provoked calls by one group to halt the sale “of some of Wales’ greatest treasures”.
After a “positive meeting” several organisations have now agreed to identify which should be kept in Wales.
The heritage minister said it would mean “important cultural and historical items are not lost to Wales”.
The council had earlier removed 32 books from the auction it is planning, and has said all the money the sale generates will go back into the city’s library service.
But the group which opposes it, Cardiff Heritage Friends, has claimed the council should be “exploiting” its assets rather than selling them, to “enhance Cardiff’s prestige as a city of culture and learning”.
The organisations which met to discuss the sale are Cardiff council, Cardiff University, the National Library of Wales and Glamorgan Record Office.
In a statement, they said they had “agreed that they would work together to identify which items from the collection should be recommended to be retained in Wales.
“Specialist expert support will be provided, including specialist advice from the National Library of Wales and Glamorgan Record Office.
“All parties recognised Cardiff council’s desire to invest in an improved library.”
Alun Ffred Jones, the Welsh Assembly Government heritage minister, said: “I’m pleased that the parties involved have been able to agree a way forward and I look forward to the establishment of a partnership which can provide advice to Cardiff council so that important cultural and historical items are not lost to Wales.”
Nigel Howells, the council’s executive member for sport, leisure and culture, said: “The key outcome we wanted was to find a way forward that allowed us to invest in the public library service through the auction of some items.
“It is doubly pleasing that we have agreed a way forward in partnership that allows for important items to be retained in Wales”.
The organisations will meet again for more discussion in greater detail.
The Association of Breton Writers [l’Association des Écrivains Bretons] has condemned in the strongest terms Cardiff City Council’s intention to sell a substantial part of the City Library’s collection of antique books. The Welsh capital is twinned with Nantes, the ancient capital of the Dukes of Brittany.
While voicing deep concern at the actions of Cardiff Council the Breton writers have written to their colleagues in Wales [the Welsh branch of the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain] expressing their solidarity with their colleagues, the writers of Wales, and the Welsh academic community, in opposing an action that would deprive Cardiff and the whole of Wales from an important part of their heritage.
Bonhams, London, is preparing a list of more than 100 books to be sold at auction in November. It is possible, if Cardiff City is allowed to proceed with its plans, that as many as 18,000 books could eventually be sold, including books from the 15th, 16th, 17th and 18th centuries some of which were donated in 1902 to the Cardiff Library by one of the city’s benefactors, John Cory. This includes a collection of rare pre-1500 books, printed in Venice, Florence, Strasbourg, Basle and other European centres of learning. […]
The Writers’ Guild Welsh Branch has welcomed the interest and support of the Breton writers. “The issue of breaking up and dispersing library and museum collections is one that has concerned the citizens of Cardiff for some time – we recall how the Welsh Industrial and Maritime Museum was closed and its collections dispersed a decade ago,” said a spokesperson.
“It appears that there are moves in France to follow this unfortunate precedent to sell collections, many of which were donated by individual benefactors in the past. As well as breaking up priceless collections this practice will not help to attract future donations from individual collectors and wealthy benefactors. It is good to know that writers and intellectuals in Brittany – indeed in Europe – are watching with concern what is happening in Cardiff.”