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Last Updated: Tuesday, 24 April 2007, 11:18 GMT 12:18 UK
Stars back literary archive plans
Sir Sean Connery
Sir Sean Connery said the archive was of "world class importance"
A host of Scottish celebrities are backing a 6.5m campaign to buy one of the world's most celebrated literary archives.

Actor Sir Sean Connery and author Ian Rankin have joined the National Library of Scotland campaign to purchase the John Murray Archive.

It was built up by seven generations of the Edinburgh-born publisher's family.

It includes manuscripts and letters from Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, Lord Byron and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Sir Sean Connery described the collection as being of "world class importance" and praised the library's "groundbreaking" plans to make the archive accessible to the people of Scotland and beyond.

The archive is a treasure trove of 150,000 items by some of the greatest writers, politicians, scientists and explorers of the late 18th to the early 20th centuries including Scott, Darwin, Livingstone, Austen, Disraeli and Babbage.

The Murray family sold it to the National Library of Scotland for 32m, well below the true market value, so it could remain in the UK and go on public display.

The Heritage Lottery Fund and the Scottish Executive provided the bulk of the funding, but the library still had to raise 6.5m or face seeing the deal fall through.

It has already brought in 1.5m and is now appealing for help in finding the remaining 5m.

I commend the National Library of Scotland for the vision and commitment to bring this treasure to Scotland
Sir Sean Connery

The National Library in Edinburgh plans to make the archive widely accessible through exhibitions which will travel the country, digitisation of items from the collection and a significant education and outreach programme.

Edinburgh-born Sir Sean said: "There will be something for everyone, from five-year-olds to academics."

While fundraising work has been going on behind the scenes since the arrival of the John Murray Archive last March, news of Sir Sean's backing coincides with the launch of the public phase of the campaign, with events in London on Tuesday and in Edinburgh on Wednesday.

"I commend the National Library of Scotland for the vision and commitment to bring this treasure to Scotland and wish them every success," Sir Sean said.

Giles Dove, NLS director of development, said "We are absolutely delighted to receive Sir Sean's endorsement for the public phase of this campaign and we are very grateful for his support as we continue in our efforts to raise the remaining 5m required to complete the acquisition of the archive."

John Murray Archive
The archive contains papers from many great literary names

Speaking about Sir Sean's backing, national librarian Martyn Wade added: "It is wonderful news. We are thrilled to receive the backing of such a prominent figure.

"We're particularly pleased that Sir Sean has highlighted that this is not just about the acquisition of an archive, but also about what it represents."

Ian Rankin, who will be speaking at the Faculty of Advocates on Wednesday about the importance of securing the archive, said: "The National Library of Scotland have it spot on when they describe the John Murray Archive as containing the 'ideas that shaped the world' and I'm delighted to have been invited to support this campaign.

"It's fantastic to see a resource of this importance coming to Scotland and I think the fact that it's here in Edinburgh really underlines and enhances the city's status as Unesco City of Literature."

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