Arts Council England
Call to save judge's copy of Lady Chatterley's Lover used in famous obscenity trial
- Also published by:
- Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
Arts Minister Michael Ellis has ordered a temporary export bar on the copy of Lady Chatterley’s Lover used by judge during obscenity trial.
- Annotated work contains notes made by wife of judge who oversaw famous 1960 obscenity trial.
- Temporary export bar has been issued to try to keep the copy in the country.
The annotated copy of Lady Chatterley’s Lover used by the judge who presided over the 1960 obscenity trial is at risk of leaving the UK unless a buyer can be found to match the £56,250 asking price.
Lady Chatterley’s Lover was D. H. Lawrence’s final novel before his death in 1930. While it was published privately in Florence in 1928 and in France the following year, the book was not published in full in Britain until 1960 due to fear of prosecution. Its eventual publication led to the trial in which this particular copy played a significant role.
The book was owned by Sir Laurence Byrne, the judge who presided over the now famous obscenity trial. It contains annotations and two pages of notes with a list of page numbers with short content summaries. The principal hand is that of Byrne’s wife Dorothy, who had studied the book and prepared a list of the pages she had annotated. Later notes have been made by the judge himself during the trial. Dorothy also sewed a blue-grey fabric bag for her husband to carry the book to and from court.
In 1960, Penguin Books decided to publish the uncensored work to test the 1959 Obscene Publications Act, which was designed to protect works of literature while strengthening laws against pornography. Potentially obscene works could now be published if they were of literary merit or contributed to the public good.
The trial of Lady Chatterley’s Lover was a sensation with the acquittal of Penguin viewed as a landmark moment in cultural history. The trial’s drama, its class tensions and its explicit references to sex captured the public’s attention. After the trial, Penguin quickly sold 3 million copies.
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