Error Costs Church Half a Million Pounds


By Carmen Comment

The Times reports that a historic collection of religious books whose sale for 36,000 pounds was approved last year by a Church of England diocese has been sold on by a book dealer for more than 500,000 pounds. The Diocese of Truro sanctioned a deal in September 2006 to sell hundreds of old Bibles and manuscripts from its library to John Thornton in a move to clear shelf space. Now, thanks to the sale, Thornton has now closed his shop in Chelsea, West London, and has told The Times that he is planning to retire to the country.

The decision to sell at such a low price has astounded antiquarian booksellers, who have described it as “one of the killings of the century” and Church officials have been left baffled by the decision to sell the collection. They are seeking legal advice to discover why the trust that owns the books did not profit more from the sale. Jeremy Dowling, spokesman for the Truro diocese and its board of finance, said that the deal was a “terrible shame” but had been done to make room. “Those on the management committee had no idea of the value of the material they were dealing with. The decision was made in principle that the pre-1800 collection be disposed of simply because in the past ten years no one had inquired about any book in it at all. Therefore, the library management committee felt that the space was being taken up in a way that was not productive. What Mr Thornton bought, he bought in good faith. The difficulty arises as to whether or not the trustees were sufficiently aware of what was going on,” he said. Which is quite the understatement…