Friday 22 November 2019

Yeats works likely to be lost to nation due to cuts

John Spain Books Editor

A MAJOR collection of the works of the poet WB Yeats and other members of the Yeats family which goes on sale in London next Wednesday seems likely to be lost to the nation.

The unique collection, with over 1,000 items, has valuable first editions and rare books as well as important memorabilia, even including a slate from Thoor Ballylee, the tower in Galway where Yeats lived.

The collection is as complete as it could be in Yeats masterpieces.

The most precious item is probably a first edition copy of Yeats's play 'Mosada', the poet's first book, which was published in 1886.

Asked if it would be attempting to buy the collection, the National Library said that cuts in its budget made this unlikely. The collection, which is to be put on sale as a single item, is priced at $750,000 (€570,000).

The collection was begun in the 1930s by the Yeats scholar Prof Marion Witt of Hunter College in New York. After her death in 1978, it was continued by her colleague, Prof Katherine Haynes Gatch, and passed on in 1986 to her nephew Prof Milton McGatch.

The collection was expanded greatly by 'Mac' Gatch and now consists of over 1,000 items, covering the work of the painter John Butler Yeats and his four children, the poet WB, the painter Jack B and their sisters Lily, who did artistic embroidery, and Lolly, who ran the famous Cuala Press.

A treasure trove of important Yeats family works, the entire collection will be going on exhibition and sale this Wednesday in the famous Maggs Bookshop, in Berkeley Square in London. Edna O'Brien will attend the opening of the exhibition, reading a selection of Yeats poetry.

According to Ed Maggs, director of the internationally known booksellers, it will be offered for sale as a single library.

A spokeswoman for the National Library said they already have many of the items which are in the collection.

"The Library already has a comprehensive collection of the printed works of WB Yeats and most other members of the Yeats family.

"In relation to the other material that is going on sale, these might be of interest. Unfortunately, following a series of dramatic budget cuts since 2008, the Library could not consider purchasing these materials."

Irish Independent

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