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Lady Chatterley Trial: University acquires judge's copy of DH Lawrence's novel

Sir Lawrence Byrne's copy of Lady Chatterley's Lover with associated notes

30 September 2019

The physical copy of Lady Chatterley's Lover used by the jusge in the landmark obscenity trial of 1960 has been acquired by the University of Bristol. The annotated Penguin books edition of the novel will be housed in the library as part of the Penguin Archive, held by the university's Special Collections.

Sold at auction by Sotheby’s in October last year to a private individual in the USA, the copy of Lawrence’s final novel used by Mr Justice Byrne at the Old Bailey became the subject of export deferral by the UK Government. 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.

The export deferral captured media attention worldwide and a crowdfunding campaign was launched by English PEN, founding centre of PEN International, a worldwide writers’ association which campaigns to defend writers and readers in the UK and around the world whose human right to freedom of expression is at risk. The campaign was supported by writers including Neil Gaiman, Amanda Palmer and Stephen Fry, who tweeted that the book was an “enticing and important object” that should stay in the UK.

Professor Ulrika Maude, a specialist in Modernist Literature based in the Department of English, said: “The trial attests to the ongoing importance of literature in addressing matters that are often seen as inadmissible or taboo in mainstream culture.”

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