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04/09/2013 11:40 BST

University Of London Under Fire For Selling Off Rare Shakespeare Plays Plan

University Of London Under Fire For Selling Off Rare Shakespeare Plays Plan
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University Of London Under Fire For Selling Off Rare Shakespeare Plays Plan

A university's plans to sell a set of rare Shakespeare plays to raise money for research have been condemned as an "act of stupidity", with fears the editions may end up in private hands.

The University of London has had the playwright's first four folios photographed and valued by Bonham's auction house, although insists "no final decision" has yet been made, the Guardian reported. The collection is the most important printed collection of Shakespeare's work.

The texts were donated to the institution's Senate House Library by American philanthropist Sir Louis Sterling in the 1950s, under strict instructions they were to be permanently housed at the university. If sold, the university, which is the UK's largest, sets to make as much as £5m.

A spokesperson at the university said: "Sir Louis was a great advocate for refreshing the collection and we believe he would have supported the idea of reinvesting in fresh items."

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Sir Brian Vickers, a visiting professor at University College London, told the Daily Telegraph: "One of these copies may contain a correction that has puzzled people for many years and has never been solved. So to sell them is an act of stupidity of the highest order. These are invaluable documents for research purposes."

The university hit the headlines recently after announcing it would be shutting down its student union to save money, and again when the university banned students from protesting - and threatened legal action if they did not comply.