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2002 articles 1991 articles

Guglielmo Libri and the British Museum: a case of scandal averted

P. Alessandra Maccioni

Abstract

IN December 1845 Antonio Panizzi, Keeper of Printed Books in the British Museum, sat down at his desk to answer a letter from his friend, the distinguished professor at the Sorbonne and the College de France, Guglielmo Libri. His fellow expatriate, a bibliophile of note, had informed him of his intention to sell his valuable collection of manuscripts and printed books. Re-reading the letter Panizzi must have considered the various possibilities of helping his friend, while at the same time enhancing the Museum's collections in his care. As far as the purchase of printed books was concerned, he foresaw no problems. To acquire the manuscripts, however, the consent of the Treasury and the Trustees would be necessary - and there was also the certainty of having to deal with the Keeper of Manuscripts, Sir Frederic Madden. The relationship between the two keepers can be characterized as a state of armed peace, which at the slightest provocation might erupt into yet another battle between them.

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