Long lost tribute to Lord Byron rediscovered
The National Library of Scotland confirmed yesterday, July 8th, that a book bought at a church bring-and-buy sale in the United States is the original memorial book from the family vault in Nottinghamshire where Byron was buried after his death in Greece, in 1824.
Marilyn Solana, an American retired speech pathologist, bought the book at her local church in Savannah, Georgia, in 2008. The book records the personal tributes and poetic laments left by more than 800 people who travelled to the poet’s final resting place to pay their respects, including the American writer Washington Irving, Martin Van Buren, who later became the eighth president of the United States, the Napoleonic general Lallemand, and the Irish poet Tom Moore. When Solana bought the book, it had lost its cover, was dirty, and the first few pages were loose. Realising, however, that it was a tribute to Lord Byron, she carried out further research and contacted the National Library of Scotland, which holds the most extensive collection of Byron’s work in the world through the John Murray Archive.
The book was placed in the vault at the St Mary’s Magdalene parish church in Hucknall Torkard, to the North of Nottingham, in 1825. By 1834, it was full. It is unclear, however, what later happened to the book. According to a report from 1849, the parish clerk gave it to a friend. Another report from 1890 suggests that the book was in the United States in the possession of a family who moved there.
Solana has donated the volume to the National Library of Scotland.
Martyn Wade, National Librarian and Chief Executive of the National Library of Scotland, said:
'We are all extremely grateful to Marilyn Solana for generously donating the book to the National Library. It is has obviously been well handled over the years but is generally in a sound condition. We will need to do conservation work on it but, once that is done, people will be able to see it for another couple of hundred years.'
There are also plans to digitise pages of the book and make them available online.
In Byron Revisited Michael House examines the life of Lord Byron on the 200th anniversary of his death.
The John Murray Archive was moved from London to the National Library of Scotland in 2006. It is the most significant archive to become publicly available in the last 100 years. In Murray Minted Ruth Boreham outlines the history of the famous publishing dynasty.
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