Landmark copy of Lady Chatterley’s Lover will reside in New University Library

Sir Lawrence Byrne’s copy of Lady Chatterley’s Lover with associated notes – University of Bristol Library, Special Collections

When the full, unedited edition of Lady Chatterley’s Lover was first published by Penguin Books in Britain in 1960, it prompted a trail so substantial that it helped define a publisher’s freedom to print explicit material in the United Kingdom.

Penguin Books was taken to court under the Obscene Publications Act of 1959 – an act of law that made possible for publishers to escape conviction if they could show that a work was of literary merit.

Significant literary experts were called in to testify during the trail, including EM Forster, Helen Gardner, Richard Hoggart, Raymond Williams and Norman St John-Stevas, and it took a jury three hours to reach their verdict; ‘not guilty’.

Lady Chatterley’s Lover went on to sell 2m copies in just two years.

The original copy of DH Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover used by the judge in the landmark obscenity trial of 1960 was sold at auction by Sotheby’s in October last year, to a private individual in the US.

It has since been acquired by the University of Bristol, after a crowdfunding campaign backed by the likes of Stephen Fry and Neil Gaiman was launched to ensure it didn’t leave the country.

The book, which bears notes from Mr Justice Byrne’s wife, Lady Dorothy Byrn, will be a focal point in the New Universtiy Library as part of the Penguin Archive, held by the University’s Special Collections.

This copy also includes personal papers, notes and correspondence relating to the Chatterley case by Sir Allen Lane, publisher and co-founder of Penguin Books as well as editorial files and proof versions of the book.

It also features the archives of Michael Rubinstein, Penguin’s lawyer in the trial, including his working papers, witness statements and correspondence with witnesses and potential witnesses.

Rebecca Sinclair, Brand and Communications Director at Penguin Random House UK, added:
“The book marks a cornerstone of Penguin’s heritage and our continued dedication to freedom of expression. We’re pleased that this copy will find a home in the University of Bristol’s archives, alongside the Penguin Archive and many other materials relevant to the trial, where it will remain accessible to the public for years to come.”