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In this June 18, 2012 file photo, Becky Allan, project curator of the British Museum, holds an edition of the Complete Works of William Shakespeare, which was kept at South Africa's apartheid-era Robben Island jail in the 1970's, during a photo call ahead of an upcoming exhibition at the museum, central London. (Lefteris Pitarakis/AP)
In this June 18, 2012 file photo, Becky Allan, project curator of the British Museum, holds an edition of the Complete Works of William Shakespeare, which was kept at South Africa's apartheid-era Robben Island jail in the 1970's, during a photo call ahead of an upcoming exhibition at the museum, central London. (Lefteris Pitarakis/AP)

University of London director resigns over plan to sell rare Shakespeare works Add to ...

The director of a library at the University of London has resigned after he spearheaded a controversial plan to sell off part of the university’s rare collection of works by Shakespeare.

The university announced Tuesday that Christopher Pressler, director of Senate House Libraries, “will be leaving in the next few days.” In a statement Mr. Pressler said that “following much thought, I have decided to resign as director for personal reasons and in order to pursue other opportunities.”

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Mr. Pressler caused a storm of protest from academics around the world earlier this month after revelations surfaced of a plan by the library to sell part of its Shakespeare collection which had been donated to the university and included several first printed editions of his plays. Money from the sale, estimated at about $8-million, would go toward funding future book acquisitions at the library. Mr. Pressler had already engaged an auction house, Bonhams, to handle the sale and he had planned to show the material to prospective bidders in Asia and the United States.

Academics and bibliographers launched a public campaign to stop the auction, arguing the books were irreplaceable research tools because each text was different. And they said the sale violated the terms of the donation by industrialist Sir Louis Sterling, who gave the collection and thousands of other rare books to the university in 1956 on the condition they remain in a campus library.

The university eventually backtracked and cancelled the sale. But the story took another twist when the Times of London reported that Mr. Pressler had not revealed that he was in a relationship with an employee at Bonhams, which was a potential violation of the university’s conflict of interest policy. In a statement to the Times, the university said Mr. Pressler acknowledged that he did not reveal the relationship but it insisted that the person involved was not directly connected to the planned Shakespeare auction.

“Mr. Pressler accepts that the correct process was not followed,” the university said. “However, the university’s management is satisfied with Mr. Pressler’s assurances that at all times he has acted in good faith and in the best interests of the library.”

In a press release Tuesday announcing Mr. Pressler’s resignation, the university said that it “wishes Chris the very best for the future and thanks him for his considerable achievements in the Library over the last three years.”

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