An English author has charged that Harvard is attempting to suppress the publication of his biography of a famous art connoisseur while the Harvard University Press publishes its own officially sanctioned biography.
Colin Simpson said yesterday in a telephone interview from Surrey, England, that Harvard is claiming unjustly copyrights to what he said was previously undiscovered archival information used in his book on early 20th century art connoisseur Bernard Berenson (Class of 1887).
The University is trying to halt publication of his book, Simpson said, because Harvard University Press plans to publish in May, 1987, the second volume of Ernest Samuels' "Bernard Berenson: The Making of a Legend." Samuels is Berenson's official biographer.
Simpson claims that the archives of Lord Duveen, a famous art dealer, show the underside of Berenson, whose critical expertise determined the value of many famous paintings. Berenson may have collected a 25 percent profit on all art works sold by Duveen, many of which Berenson authenticated for clients, Simpson argues in his unpublished manuscript.
"Harvard is trying very hard to delay my book because Professor Samuels did not have access to those archives and didn't even know about them until four weeks ago," Simpson said.
Deputy General Counsel Martin Michaelson denied allegations that Harvard is concerned with the case because Harvard University Press is publishing a rival book.
Michaelson said that some of the material Simpson uses in his book was taken from papers left to Harvard in one of Berenson's wills and was used without authorization.
The Harvard lawyer said the University retains the copyright to information on Berenson contained in the Duveen archives, despite the fact that the archives are currently in the possession of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
Litigation between Harvard and the publisher of the Simpson book, Macmillian, has delayed the printing of the biography for at least a year, according to a Macmillian attorney. It was orginally scheduled for this fall's list.
"We're talking to Macmillan about how best to resolve the problem," Michaelson said.
But Simpson responded: "[The archives] have nothing to do with Harvard University whatsoever, and Harvard knows that damned well."
Maud Wilcox, the editor in chief of the HarvardUniversity Press, could not be reached forcomment.
Simpson used the Duveen archives to gain keyinformation about Berenson's relationship to theart dealer. The Duveen archives were left to theMetropolitan Museum in New York by Edward Fowles,a Duveen associate, under the condition that thearchives remain sealed until 2018.
But Simpson said he had the legal right toexamine the Duveen archives and include thematerial in his Berenson biography.
"I arranged them [the archives] to go to theMet," Simpson said. "The condition was that I[could use] them first."
Simpson said he agreed in the 1970s toghost-write Fowles' autobiography in exchange forthe use of the archives for his own book, he said.
Berenson, who died in 1959 at the age of 94,left his Florentine villa, I Tatti, to theUniversity. I Tatti is now used by Harvard as acenter for Italian Renaissance studies