Faulkner heirlooms going to auction in New York

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Manuscripts and personal letters of the late William Faulkner, whose original writings are a rarity in the literary marketplace, can be viewed Wednesday at Sotheby's in New York — an event to whet the appetites of scholars ahead of a June auction.

It's a literary treasure trove, said Justin Caldwell, a specialist in books and manuscripts at Sotheby's.

William Faulkner's 1950 Nobel Prize for Literature. The Legion d'Honneur medal presented by France to Faulkner in 1951. Faulkner's Nobel handwritten acceptance speech draft.

It's an estate package that includes 26 letters and postcards sent by Faulkner, 25 leather-bound columns of the author's work and manuscripts of "The Trapper Story," ''Vision in Spring," ''Mammy Callie," and "Hog Pawn."

Some items, such as the Nobel medal, had been stored at the University of Mississippi. Other manuscripts came from the University of Virginia, where Faulkner was writer-in-residence in 1957-58. All the items were on loan, university officials say, and were always property of the family.

There's also a group of letters and postcards he wrote to his family while living in Paris in the 1920s. Caldwell said the letters include one to his mother in which he warns her he has grown a beard.

"He drew her pictures of how he looked," Caldwell said.

Caldwell said Sotheby's began talks with the family after a previously unpublished and untitled 12-page, short story by Faulkner was found among literary papers at the family farm in Charlottesville, Va., last year.

Another find was an original book of poetry Faulkner wrote and bound for his wife, Estelle. It was published in 1984 from a photocopy.

"We were thrilled. Original Faulkner material is very scarce on the market," Caldwell said.

"This auction is for people who are serious about modern literature. This is not something they are going to see very often ... this much Faulkner material in the same place."

The proceeds from the June 11 auction go to the family. Sotheby's expects the auction to bring in as much as $2 million.

In 2010, an auction of a Faulkner collection of books and personal items, including one of his most acclaimed novels, "Light in August," brought in $833,246. The auction was handled by Christie's in New York.

Les Caplin, who represents the Faulkner estate and the family, said the Sotheby's preview Wednesday night precedes one planned for Paris later where writings for Faulkner's years in France will be exhibited.

"They loved his fiction. He was very popular in France before he became popular here," Caplin said. "It was Albert Camus who translated Faulkner's 'Requiem for a Nun' into French. One of the things we found was the eulogy that Faulkner wrote to Albert Camus when he died."

Caplin said while many items in the collection came from universities, the family expects much of it will return to colleges.

"I think the family is confident much of this is going to end up in scholars' hands," Caplin said.

For many, Faulkner's life and work will forever be entwined with Oxford, Miss.

In September of 1902, just before he turned 5 years old, Faulkner and his family moved to Oxford, so it was where he grew up. He raised his own family there. And it is where he was buried after dying on July 6, 1962, at age 64.

Jay Watson, Howry Professor of Faulkner Studies and Professor of English at the University of Mississippi, said many scholars are hoping the Faulkner papers remain in the public domain, especially those recently discovered and unpublished.

"I think the jury is out on what it is going to mean to scholars. I think there is less talk among scholars about the Nobel Prize than the manuscripts and the hope of getting access to and being published in some form. That will depend on the actual owner of the manuscripts," Watson said.