After a Century, an American Writer's Library Will Go to America





With a toast of Champagne and a lunch of roast pheasant (shot by the host himself), George Ramsden, a British bookseller in a pinstripe suit, signed a $2.6 million agreement to sell the 2,600-volume Edith Wharton library to the custodians of the Mount, the writer's estate in Lenox, Mass., which she designed, built and finally left forever in 1911 as her marriage unraveled.

"It is the most important acquisition we could possibly make," Stephanie Copeland, head of the Mount's restoration project, said in an interview just before she signed the deal.

The sale ended a remarkable period of uncertainty, not just for the future of the collection and the keepers of the Mount but also for Mr. Ramsden, who bought the bulk of the library in 1984 for £45,000, then worth around $80,000, and has devoted much of his life to completing and cataloguing it.

The library has rarely been on public view since the writer's death in France in 1937, and its return to the Mount will provide scholars and Wharton aficionados with an opportunity to view the volumes that not only shaped Wharton's development but also reflected the broad sweep of her interests, from classical French theater and German drama to the novels of her peers and the delights of the then new-fangled automobile.



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