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Byron Memorabilia in the Gennadius Reading Room


The Gennadius Library features an impressive collection of Byronia. George Gordon, Lordon Byron, was the most famous of the Philhellenes and his poetry and untimely death did much to arouse sentiment in favor of the Greek Revolution. It is natural, therefore, that Gennadius was interested in Byron and collected the works of the great poet and books about him. The rarest piece is the four-line verse written by Byron in 1818 on the birth of a son to the English consul in Venice. The text was translated into eleven languages and printed, apparently in ten or less copies. The Gennadeion copy is signed by the child’s godfather, Count Rizzo, and presented to the mother. The Library has also a number of books once owned by Byron himself, including the two copies of the 1640 edition of the Iliad translated into demotic Greek, evidence of the young poet’s interest in the spoken language. There are also many illustrations for Byron’s poetry, some of them original, and the last portrait of the poet, a watercolor, executed from a sketch made just before Byron’s death at Missolonghi. A number of the Byron memorabilia are also in this collection: a lock of the poet’s hair; his manuscript case with initials; a visiting card tray; several seals; a watch; a piece of his tartan jacket worn at Missolonghi; and an unfinished embroidery by his half-sister Augusta Leigh. Probably the most moving item of all is the crown of laurel leaves and Greek flowers sent by the people of Missolonghi and placed on the poet’s body as it lay in state in London.