Page last updated at 10:41 GMT, Wednesday, 24 September 2008 11:41 UK

Uni hopes to stop rare book sale

Britannia Depicta. (Picture: Cardiff University Library)
Britannia Depicta, a series of 18th Century maps, is in the collection

A university has said it hopes to find funding so that it can house and look after some of Wales' oldest and rarest books which a council plans to sell.

Up to 18,000 items dating from the 15th Century could be sold at auction by Cardiff council to raise money for improvements in library services.

Cardiff University said it believed the collection, currently held at the central library, should remain intact.

The council said it had agreed to withdraw items from the first auction.

Initially 141 lots would have up for sale at this auction but the council said it had agreed with the university to withdraw 32 items specified by them so its experts could inspect them and seek funding if they wanted to purchase them.

The council had said they planned to sell the books in a staged process over the course of several years.

A council report in 2007 said it would cost the authority 2m to 3m to look after the collections.

They are of enormous historical and cultural importance to Cardiff and to Wales
Dr David Grant, Cardiff University

But campaigners opposing the plans said selling the collection would be "a step backwards" for the city.

Dr Wyn James, secretary of Cardiff Welsh Bibliographical Society, said a report compiled by those opposed to the sale would be submitted to relevant councillors before a council meeting on Thursday.

In it they will claim that keeping the collection in Cardiff will benefit the city economically and help students and academics with their research work.

Vice Chancellor Dr David Grant said the university supported the view that the books remain in Cardiff and in the public domain.

He said it would be prepared to commit resources and to seek external funding for cataloguing, conservation and public access and display.

"They are of enormous historical and cultural importance to Cardiff and to Wales," said Dr Grant.

"The university also confirms its longstanding offer to house these collections on deposit in the university library.

"The university is happy to continue its discussions with Cardiff council to find the best way of retaining in Cardiff these nationally and internationally significant cultural resources."

Urgent meeting

Dr James welcomed the university announcement and said it removed all need to sell the books.

But Coun Nigel Howells, the council's executive member for sport, leisure and culture, said he would be seeking an urgent meeting with the university's vice chancellor to discuss the issues raised.

"Since 2006 the council has made no secret of the fact that we intended to dispose of certain books, which have very rarely been requested by the general public for nearly 100 years," he said.

"We note for the first time the university has publicly stated its position."

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