A book belonging to John Keats has been bought by the Keats Shelley House in Rome and will go on display this autumn in the museum at the bottom of the Spanish Steps.
Keats’s autographed copy of Tacitus’s Orationes Omnes is an important document for the museum because it is one of only 28 books known to have belonged to Keats. It also indicates how important Latin and classical culture were to the young poet, which is also evident from the other books he owned.
Most of these are either in the Harvard University Library or the Keats House in Hampstead. The copy of Tacitus is the first book owned by Keats to be in the museum’s collection in Rome and is thought to be earlier than the others. Experts have dated the signature, written with a poor quality quill, to about 1810 when Keats was 15 and about to leave school.
The book, published by Pietro Maria Marchetti, Brescia, 1601, could therefore have been a school prize. Keats Shelley House in Rome bought the book for £35,000 at a Bonham’s auction in London from a private British seller.