Magazine article American Libraries

British Library Disposing of Newspapers

Magazine article American Libraries

British Library Disposing of Newspapers

Article excerpt

An American novelist's report that the British Library has disposed of almost 10% of its historic collection of newspapers has focused new attention on the issue in Britain.

Nicholson Baker, whose novels include The Fermata (1994) and Vox (1992), noted in an article in the July 24 New Yorker (p. 42-61) that the British Library "quietly announced" in a newsletter article in 1996 that it intended to get rid of almost all the non-Commonwealth newspapers printed after 1850 that it had microfilmed. The library's holdings included a 70-year (1880-1950) run of Joseph Pulitzer's "exuberantly polychromatic" New York World, plus extensive holdings of the Chicago Tribune and the San Francisco Chronicle. The British Library plan was to offer the holdings first to libraries and then to dealers, then to discard anything left over.

Baker says he was one of only two bidders at an unpublicized blind auction the library held in September 1999; the other was a dealer from Pennsylvania whose interest is not in preserving a historical record but in "disbinding" the volumes and selling the eye-catching headline issues. …

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