By Maureen E. Mulvihill
“When literary property changes hands, we take notice. We take special notice if the property is of significant quantity and speaks to our interests. The dispersal in a public auction of a large collection of books, manuscripts, and images creates a flutter of activity: scholars plan research visits; library cataloguers and online bibliographers create new records; conservators tend to the more fragile items; curators plan new exhibitions; collectors reassess the market value of their own copies; and teachers expand course syllabi to include student viewing of these rarities firsthand. With the transference of new properties, a broad chain reaction is set off. Everyone benefits from ‘the butterfly effect.’”
The Paula Peyraud Collection was considered the “largest collection in private hands ofbooks, manuscripts, and images associated with the Georgian period (1760–1820)”. It included rare first editions of Samuel Johnson, Jane Austen, and Fanny Burney. The collection, formed by the librarian Paula Peyraud, was auctioned at Bloomsbury’s in May 2009. Maureen E. Mulvihill, scholar at the Princeton Research Forum, takes a post-auction view at the lots and their bidders, and tells the story of the “Dark Lady of Rare Book Collectors: Paula Fentress Peyraud (NY, 1947–2008)”.
"Literary Property Changing Hands: The Peyraud Collection" was published in Eighteenth-Century Studies, Autumn 2009, vol. 23, no. 1 (2009). The pdf version is available here by permission of the author. Thank you very much.