July 11, 2011

Byron memorial book found


An 1826 painting of Lord Byron on his deathbed, by Joseph-Denis Odevaere

A lost-for-centuries memorial book kept at the burial site of Lord Byron in the days just after his death and signed with “personal tributes and several poetic laments … by more than 800, many of them famous figures of the day,” has been returned to the UK by a woman who found it at a church sale in the US.

A BBC News wire story reports that Marily Solana, who bought the book for $35 at a church sale in Savannah, Georgia in 2008 has given it to the National Library of Scotland, which “holds the world’s most extensive collection of Byron works.”

Solana says that after researching the volume online, she contact the library, where “A curator realised it was the memorial book from Byron’s family vault in Nottinghamshire, where he was buried after his death in Greece in 1824.”

“I’m thrilled to be able to bring this wonderful little book to the National Library of Scotland, where it can be treasured and studied and cared for professionally,” she tells the BBC.

The library’s David McClay, “the library curator who uncovered the book’s identity,” tells the Beeb that  “This is a remarkable find which offers a fascinating insight into Byron’s posthumous reputation. I’m sure there will be international interest in what has come to light.”

Indeed, as a forthcoming title in our Neversink Library series postulates — The Late Lord Byron, by Doris Langley Moore — it was the period after Lord Byron’s death that may have been most revealing as to his character, and that of the world he lived in.

Dennis Johnson is the founder of MobyLives, and the co-founder and co-publisher of Melville House. Follow him on Twitter at @mobylives