The John Murray publishing house would have had little difficulty in finding a home and a purchaser for its archive, which is thought to be worth some 45 million. However, it is intended that it will go to the National Library of Scotland for considerably less, at the discretion of the present John Murray. The courageous publishers of Darwins The Origin of the Species in 1859, have selected key items from 234 years of independent publishing. Apart from being publishers to Coleridge, Scott, David Livingstone and Washington Irving (to name but a few), there is also material from Jane Austen, Southey, George Crabbe and Ruskin - all carefully preserved in the columnated splendour of the London offices at 50 Albemarle Street. A history is under way, authored by Humphrey Carpenter, who will draw on the Murray records about John Betjeman, Osbert Lancaster, Kenneth Clark, Freya Stark and Patrick Leigh Fermor.
Seventy-three-year-old veteran art gallery Director Richard Demarco claims (unlike John Murray who provided an accurate valuation for its archive) that his archive is 'priceless'. A writ of 50,000 from Edinburgh City Corporation for arrears of rent and interest seems little to worry about in that case. National Gallery of Modern Art curators have been attempting, unsuccessfully, to verify Demarco's valuation. A figure of 3 million seems to be hard to substantiate, and national institutions, even post-Holyrood escalation of costs (the Scottish Parliament building is ten times over budget and currently subject to a government inquiry), do not normally follow such a path. It is not enough to bandy around the name of Joseph Beuys, Ian Hamilton Finlay and Jimmy Boyle. The National Library of Scotland can be ruled out of the Dutch auction that seems bound to transpire.
Meanwhile, Michael Foot is pledging the nation's finest collection of the work of William Hazlitt to the Wordsworth Trust. There are, in all, 1,000 volumes - quite manageable for this beautifully located museum in Dove Cottage, Grasmere, Cumbria. This gift will also enable Hazlitt's grave in Soho to be restored. Politician and scholar Michael Foot has built up the collection over many years. Tom Paulin has described Hazlitt as 'a master of the English prose style, a beautifully modulated general essayist, the first great theatre critic in English, the first great art critic, a magnificent political journalist and polemicist'. As to value, no word. But this was clearly one that escaped John Murray. No doubt, Richard Demarco would simply add 'priceless'.