Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Campbell-White Collection on the Block

Annette Campbell-White, the head of a medical venture capital firm, is selling her rare book collection through Sotheby's, Bloomberg reports. The sale, "The Modern Movement: The Annette Campbell-White Collection" will be held in London on 7 June; Bloomberg notes there will be a preview of the highlights in New York before the books go across the pond.

The collection, of modern first editions, has been valued at approximately $3.6 million.

"A New Zealander, Campbell-White studied engineering at the University of Cape Town, South Africa, then worked in London as a researcher for British Oxygen Co. She spent half a month's salary on her first book at a dealer near Kensington High Street. She founded MedVen in 1986 to fund "early stage medical technology" companies.

Asked why she was selling much of her collection, Campbell-White said "They had become quite valuable and I didn't want to be afraid of leaving them at home and I didn't want to put my books in bank vaults. I offered them to a New Zealand university but they didn't seem to understand the value."

I very much doubt that the university didn't "understand" the value; it's much more likely that they simply didn't have the funds to pay whatever astronomical sum Ms. Campbell-White was asking. If she wanted to keep the collection together, why not donate the books to the university? It certainly doesn't sound like she's lacking for funds.

[Update: In comments, Ms. Campbell-White writes "in fact, I offered to DONATE them to three different NZ institutions, none of whom could guarantee to look after the condition of the books over time, nor that they would not just disappear into the bookstacks." Fair conditions both, and I apologize for the speculation indulged in above.]