Early copy of Hawthorne masterpiece to be auctioned
December 12, 2004
NATICK, Mass. – The town’s historical society hopes to make more than $250,000 this week by auctioning the oldest known copy of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter” – not bad for a manuscript that spent more than a century in a drawer before someone recognized its significance.
A relative of Hawthorne donated the corrected page proofs in 1886 to the organization that became the Natick Historical Society. The pages are covered with more than 700 proofreading corrections and comments, many believed to be in Hawthorne’s own hand.
The gift spent the next 118 years in a drawer, until trustee Roger Casavant came across the manuscript this year while cataloguing the society’s collections. He identified it as the oldest existing copy of “The Scarlet Letter.”
“This is unique. No other proof pages of any of Hawthorne’s novels or stories survive,” said Chris Coover, senior specialist in rare books and manuscripts at Christie’s in New York, which will auction it Thursday along with 17 other rare documents belonging to the historical society.
“People are quite astonished this exists at all. It was unknown to scholars,” Coover told the Metro-West Daily News of Framingham.