Sell the Rare Books, says the Royal College of Physicians

November 1 2020

Image of Sell the Rare Books, says the Royal College of Physicians

Picture: The Times

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The Royal College of Physicians in London is the latest UK institution that has mooted selling off parts of its historic collections. In this case the college's leadership has defended the proposed sale of its rich collection of rare books. Press reports have suggested that £10m will be raised from the sale to plug a £3m shortfall.

The college are custodians of a large selection of important books spanning an enormous scope of subjects. Many were gifted in the seventeenth century. Amongst their most prized volumes are editions that were once in the collection of Elizabeth I's astrologer Dr John Dee.

In defence of the proposals president of the Royal College Andrew Goddard has said that the books are "non medical" and thus outside of its core remit. An online petition has begun in order to encourage the college to change its mind.

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It seems the Royal College are not the only ones selling rare books at the moment. I recently spotted that Rugby School are selling a selection of historic volumes at auction next month. The school made £15m in 2018 after selling off their old master drawings collection at Christie's.

The school's headmaster has explained that proceeds from the upcoming sale of its rare books:

will go towards extending the benefit of a Rugby education, an education where boys and girls are encouraged to keep asking questions and challenging the answers.

I wonder if some the school's pupils past and present might be challenging this decision.

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