UPDATE: Norfolk Record Office makes successful bid to keep treasured fifteenth century Paston Letter in Norfolk
15:59 13 June 2012
The bid to keep a rare 15th century letter in Norfolk has been won today (Wednesday) following fears it may leave the county after it was put up for auction.
The words of the Paston Letter
Please yow to wete that the pryour and Convent of Norwych have wyth halden certeyn Rent for londes that they halden of me wythynne my maner of haylysdon and ys ii tapers of wax of ii lb wyght by the space of xviii yeere ... p[ray]yng yow to speke wyth the pryour ... and that ye lyke to meove hym to make me paym[en]t as hys dewtee ys, so as y have no cause to sewe [i.e. sue] farther and to doo as Justice requyryth ... y pr[a]y yow cosyn that y may speke wyth yow or [i.e. before] y ryde. and that or thrysday by the ferthyst and ther y shall tell you tydyngs off the parlem[en]t.
The Norfolk Record Office successfully bid on the unique 1454 Paston Letter which went on sale at Christie’s London auction rooms after 2pm today.
The letter came from the private collection of Great Yarmouth historian Charles John Palmer and a note records its purchase in 1839 for two guineas.
County archivist John Alban said the record office team were “pleased and delighted” that they won the document.
“People talk about the Paston Letters and people think of the large collection in the British Library,” he said.
“The Norfolk Record Office does hold some material and to find a letter and to add it to the Paston material we have here is great news.”
He added that they were awaiting the invoice and that it may take “several weeks” before they received the letter.
The Pastons were the first recorded family to write to each other in English on paper and the letters are a collection consisting of their correspondence between the years 1422 and 1509.
The letters include state papers and documents which reflect the general condition of England during that period.
Most of the famous Paston Letters are kept at the British Library, Bodleian Library and Cambridge University Library.
But co-founder of Paston Heritage Society Lucy Care said today’s result would allow the society to bring the Paston Letters to the attention of the Norfolk public.
“We are hoping at some point we can arrange a joint event with the Norfolk Record Office with the letter as a show piece,” she said.
“The letter will need to be interpreted when it arrives in Norfolk and it’s brilliant that they can have their existing Paston material put together with the letter.”
Seven lines long, the letter was sent by former Caister Castle owner Sir John Fastolf to his lawyer John Paston and is penned by Sir John’s secretary William Worcester.
It reveals a threat to sue a prior for rent owed after occupying land within his Hellesdon manor on the outskirts of Norwich.
Christie’s senior specialist for autograph manuscripts and letters Thomas Venning said it was extremely rare for one to come on the market, especially from this period.
Christie’s press officer Dernagh O’Leary said the Paston Letter sold at auction for £3,000.
● For more information about the Paston Heritage Society please visit www.pastonhertiage.co.uk.