NLI Acquires Major Yeats Treasures

The National Library of Ireland has announced details of a number of major new Yeats acquisitions. These acquisitions include the purchase from the Yeats family, via Sotheby’s, of more than 500 letters between WB Yeats and his wife George Yeats. 

The letters between WB and George Yeats were due to be auctioned by Sotheby’s in London on 27th September. The National Library was offered the opportunity to acquire them for the national collection several months prior to the auction taking place. Agreement was reached that the letters should not be included in the sale, and they are now being purchased privately for €725,000, a purchase made possible by special allocation funding of €500,000 provided by Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Heather Humphreys, with the balance covered from the NLI’s own resources. 

The letters between WB and George Yeats show many facets of their relationship through more than 20 years.

In addition to the advance purchase of these letters, the National Library purchased a number of items at auction, for €72,675, supported by funding of approximately €50,000 from a family charitable trust. All of the items were by the poet’s artist father John Butler Yeats, including: a watercolour self-portrait; portraits of the artist’s daughters Susan Mary 'Lily' Yeats and Elizabeth Corbet 'Lolly' Yeats as adults and sketches of them as children; a pen and ink drawing of WB Yeats’ mother, Susan Pollexfen Yeats, and pencil sketches of George and WB Yeats.

The NLI has also announced the forthcoming donation by the Yeats family of both the remaining Yeats family archive and items currently on loan to the NLI for its Yeats exhibition. The donations will be made under Section 1003 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997, the tax relief available in respect to donors of important national heritage items to the Irish national collections.

The donation includes more than 700 letters written by John Butler Yeats to his children, many illustrated with drawings and sketches, and more than 600 letters received by WB Yeats from a wide circle of friends and acquaintances, including many fellow writers such as TS Eliot, Ezra Pound, George Moore, Sean O’Casey, GK Chesterton, and Cecil Day Lewis. Items currently on display in the NLI’s WB Yeats exhibition, including pictures and other items which belonged to WB Yeats, will now be donated to become part of the NLI’s permanent collection. 

These letters and objects are the latest treasures in a series of remarkable WB Yeats material acquired by the NLI from the Yeats family over almost 80 years, since George Yeats donated original manuscripts of the poems 'Oisin' and the 'Wanderings of Usheen' in 1939. See full press release here

 
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