Landmark copy of Lady Chatterley's Lover acquired by Bristol Uni Library


By Benjamin Salmon, Deputy News Editor

The copy was used by the judge in a watershed obscenity trial.

A copy of D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover used in a historic 1960 obscenity trial has been acquired by the Special Collections archive in the University of Bristol Library.

The book, which depicts an intense sexual love story between an upper-class woman and a working-class man, was banned for obscenity upon its initial release in 1928 but was the subject of a landmark trial fought between its publisher, Penguin and the Government in 1960 that overturned the ban.

The trial vindicated Penguin Publishing, D.H. Lawrence, and ultimately the literary world when a ‘not guilty’ verdict was given, resulting in a widespread liberalisation of explicit material in public life.

The annotated copy in question was used by the judge, Mr Justice Byrne, at the trial and was acquired by the university in part thanks to a campaign by the writers’ association English PEN to keep the copy in the UK.

The copy was previously owned by a private individual in the United States.

The campaign, which found support among literary greats such as Stephen Fry and Amanda Palmer, was launched to find a UK buyer that could match the auction price as well as provide use of the copy for researchers and the public.

President of English PEN, Philippe Sands QC, 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.

‘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.’

Alongside the copy, the acquisition also includes notes and correspondence related to the case, a transcript of the trial, original photographs and press cuttings from the time.

The acquisition will feature as a centrepiece for the new Bristol library. Image courtesy of HawkinsBrown & Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects

Bristol’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Provost, Professor Judith Squires, praised the acquisition, saying: ‘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.’

Featured image credit: Twitter / @BristolUni

Have you read Lady Chatterley's Lover? Should the University be spending large sums on these special acquisitions?