UK halts export of ‘Lady Chatterley’ copy from famous trial

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The British government used its powers to preserve the nation’s cultural treasures on Monday to halt the export of a tattered paperback copy of “Lady Chatterley’s Lover.”

The copy of the once-scandalous book was used by the judge in the U.K. obscenity trial of Penguin Books. Penguin was prosecuted in 1960 for publishing D.H. Lawrence’s novel about an affair between a wealthy woman and her husband’s gamekeeper, a landmark in the frank literary depiction of sexuality.

A prosecution lawyer infamously asked in court whether it was “a book that you would … wish your wife or your servants to read?”

It took jurors just three hours of deliberation to find Penguin not guilty, and the case is regarded as a landmark victory for freedom of speech and a sign of changing social mores.

The copy used by judge Laurence Byrne contains notes by his wife Dorothy detailing the explicit passages, and a hand-sewn damask bag designed to stop photographers snapping the judge carrying the scandalous tome.

It was sold to an anonymous overseas bidder at a Sotheby’s auction in October for 56,250 pounds ($73,000).

The government’s decision halts the export for several months to see whether a buyer can be found to keep it in Britain.

Arts minister Michael Ellis said the Chatterley trial “was a watershed moment in cultural history, when Victorian ideals were overtaken by a more modern attitude.”

“I hope that a buyer can be found to keep this important part of our nation’s history in the U.K.,” he said.