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University of Oxford
Director of University Library Services and Bodley's Librarian

Speech of welcome at a reception for the Bodleian's North American Friends

New York, 7 December 2004

It's just two years since we had a Bodleian event in New York, and that's two years too long!

In fact, it's almost eight years since my first event as 'Bodley's Librarian in New York'; and, on that occasion, I met with over 100 of you in the University Club and gave an illustrated talk on "The next 400 years of the Bodleian Library". So you can tell that we've never been lacking in confidence and ambition about the Library's future!

And, during my time as Bodley's Librarian, we've been very fortunate to be able to celebrate many important achievements. We've won awards for the renovation of the Old Bodleian buildings, including Duke Humfrey's glorious 15th-century Library; we've marked our 400th anniversary in great style; we've launched the Oxford Digital Library; we've reorganised most of the central libraries in the University into an integrated whole; and we've started out on a major fundraising campaign to secure the long-term future of our principal buildings and services. And I want to take this opportunity to acknowledge the enormous help that we've received in all of this from so many of you - our American Friends - and to say how very much we value the strong and steady support that so many of you have given us over the last few years of progress and development in our great library institution.

But if, as we believe, the Bodleian Library really is a great library, and if it has any lasting value to offer to the world, then it's the Library's collections - of rare books, manuscripts, and archives - that put it right at the forefront of the cultural repositories of the world.

And tonight, we're met principally to celebrate the successful acquisition by the Bodleian of one of the most important and most extensive collections of English literary materials that the Library has ever acquired in its 402 years of existence. A year last Fall, we faced the daunting task of having to raise almost $10 million, to purchase from Lord Abinger that part of the Shelley Papers of which the other two-thirds were already in the Library's ownership. And, tonight, we are able to celebrate the remarkable fact that, in less than 15 months, we have secured this great collection of Shelley-related materials, with only a little less than $200,000 still to raise. This has been a major achievement for us, and we're delighted that you could be here tonight to join with us in marking it.

But if it's my pleasant task to salute all those - including many of you - who have been so generous in responding to our appeal for assistance, and in making this outstanding achievement possible, then it's for others - the Library users and the Shelley experts - to underline just how very important the Abinger/Shelley Papers are for 18th-century English literary scholarship and study.

And tonight we're privileged to have with us two such cognoscenti - Bill Buice and Betty Bennett - who have both kindly agreed to say a few words about the meaning and importance of this landmark acquisition, and about the place of Shelley and his circle among the literary luminaries of the English-speaking world.

Bill Buice is a major collector of rare books; he is a former President of the Grolier Club of New York; and he is the current President of the Keats-Shelley Association of America. Betty Bennett is the Distinguished Professor of Literature at Washington's American University; and she is one of the world's leading experts on the works of both William Godwin and of his daughter Mary Shelley, whose early manuscript draft of Frankenstein forms part of the Abinger/Shelley Papers now belonging to the Bodleian. Both Bill and Betty are personal donors to the appeal, so it's with double pleasure and gratitude that I now invite them to speak to us in turn, with Bill going first.

Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Bill Buice and Betty Bennett!

Reg Carr
New York
7 December 2004