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Export ban on Britten manuscript buys time to hear from UK bidders

- 9 March 2012

A complete draft score of Benjamin Britten’s Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra, one of two known such items and the more significant of those, has been placed under an export ban to give British individuals or institutions ‘a last chance to raise the money to keep the manuscript in the United Kingdom’.

Remaining in the UK – but for how long? One of Britten’s complete drafts of Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra

The score’s existence only came to public knowledge when it was sold at auction at Sotheby’s on 30 November 2011 for £211,250. Both the owner and the successful bidder remain private.

Culture minister Ed Vaizey placed the temporary bar on the item’s export following a recommendation by the export review committee at Arts Council England. The committee recommended that the export decision be deferred ‘on the grounds that this is one of the most popular and well-loved of Benjamin Britten’s compositions and it has introduced generations of school children to classical music’.

‘Considering that The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra is so closely connected with our history and national life, its departure would be a misfortune,’ said a statement given by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

The export bar is in place until 8 May; this deadline may be extended to 8 September in the event of serious interest being expressed. The recommended price for such bids is £220,000.

‘Offers from public bodies for less than the recommended price through the private treaty sale arrangements, where appropriate, may also be considered by Mr Vaizey,’ said the statement. ‘Such purchases frequently offer substantial financial benefit to both parties through the sharing of tax advantages.’

Anyone interested in making an offer to purchase the manuscript should contact the owner’s agent through: The Secretary, The Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest, Arts Council England, 14 Great Peter Street, London, SW1P 3NQ; Tel: 020 7973 5259.

The lot on the Sotheby’s website is here.

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