HC Deb 14 June 1880 vol 252 cc1991-2

asked the First Lord of the Treasury, If it be true that the valuable Collection of MSS., the property of the Earl of Ashburnham, was offered in whole or in part to the "Trustees of the British Museum," and declined by them solely for want of the needful funds, and that they were about to be sold to the Royal Library in Berlin for £120,000; and, if so, whether he will consider the advisability of obtaining for this nation this unique literary treasure?


in reply, said, that the hon. Member for Darlington (Mr. Fry), who had put the Question, was, he believed, under several material misapprehensions with regard to the Ashburnham Manuscripts. No application had been made to the Government on the subject of that collection of manuscripts; but, in consequence of the Question of his hon. Friend, he had made inquiry of the Trustees of the British Museum, and he had found the following to be the state of the case. Those manuscripts might be considered as falling into two branches; one of them, he believed, being of great interest to France, and the other to England. The negotiations were still in progress between the Trustees of the British Museum and the present Lord Ashburnham with reference to the latter portion that belonged to England. But he was told that those Trustees, who might be regarded in the light of authorities upon the matter, were widely at issue with the noble Lord as to the value of the manuscripts, and were not inclined to go any way near the price he had demanded. There could be no doubt that the collection was a valuable one; but, with reference to that value, it would be presumptuous on his part to give any opinion; but, at any rate, the Trustees were not willing to make an advance on the price they had offered. He had heard nothing whatever of any offer on the part of the German Government to purchase the manuscripts at £120,000; but he had been told that the French Government were likewise at issue with the noble Lord as to the value of the portion belonging to France.