Romantic Circles Blog

Byron Society Collection to go to Drew University

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The Byron Society of America announced January 22, 2010 that it has chosen Drew University in Madison, New Jersey, as the new home for its Byron Society Collection. The collection of almost 5,000 items, including rare books, portraits, letters, and other priceless material, will be housed with the Drew Library’s special collections, where students, scholars, and members of the public will be able to access it. Robert Weisbuch, president of Drew University and a specialist in nineteenth-century British and American writers, stated in his welcome: “The arrival of this collection will provide a feast of research opportunities for scholars and undergraduates alike.”

Included in the Byron Society Collection are letters from Mrs. Byron, Thomas Moore, and Lady Byron, and the splendid collection of 1,900 volumes, including many early and rare editions, together with 600 booklets and 60 material objects belonging to collector Michael Rees, former secretary of the International Council of Byron Societies. Papers, correspondence, books, and photographs once owned by the late Leslie A. Marchand, author of Byron: A Biography, and editor of Byron’s Letters and Journals, likewise form an essential part of the collection’s holdings. The collection also includes visual representations of the poet, such as Rembrandt Peale’s 1825 lithograph of Byron, as well as statuary, mezzotints and engravings, Staffordshire figures, and decorative and other material objects that demonstrate the impact of Byron’s life and works on his readers, both past and present.

“The deposit of the Byron Society’s important archive of books and cultural materials in the Drew University Library is one of those events that do not often capture public attention,” noted Jerome McGann, editor of Byron: The Complete Poetical Works. “But it is a moment in the history of the university where its commitment to the preservation of our cultural heritage is clearly displayed.”

Drew University (http://www.drew.edu) is known for its special collections and archives, including distinctive holdings on Willa Cather, Walt Whitman, John Wesley, and the history of world Methodism. Discussions between Drew and the Byron Society began when it became known that the university had been given the coveted Byron and Whitman holdings of private collector Norman Tomlinson.

“Drew is the natural home for the Byron Society Collection,” commented Marsha Manns, chair of the Byron Society of America and co-founder, with Leslie A. Marchand, of the Byron Society Collection. The library’s current holdings, including the Tomlinson Byron Collection, along with the value placed on collections of material culture and the university’s willingness to provide wide access to the collection, were all important considerations for the society.” Scholars agree. “The settlement of the Byron Society Collection at Drew University opens exciting new opportunities for research and teaching in material culture,” said William St Clair, author of The Reading Nation in the Romantic Period and That Greece Might Still Be Free, “Given the rich collections already there and Drew’s pioneering work in studying the reception and diffusion of ideas, I see a perfect fit. Many scholars and others will wish to be associated with this imaginative project.”

The Byron Society of America (http://www.byronsociety.org) is a non-profit literary organization founded to study the life and works of the English Romantic poet, George Gordon, Lord Byron (1788-1824), whose immense cultural impact extends from the nineteenth century to the present day. The Society is one of forty societies representing forty countries that collectively comprise the International Byron Society.

For further information, please contact membernews@byronsociety.org.

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