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'Scarlet Letter' copy auctioned

December 18, 2004|From Associated Press

The oldest known copy of Nathaniel Hawthorne's "The Scarlet Letter" was auctioned for $545,100, a record price for an American 19th century literary work, Christie's auction house said.

The pre-sale estimate was between $200,000 and $300,000 for 144 pages of a printed proof of the classic novel. The manuscript was bought Thursday by an American book dealer who requested anonymity, Christie's New York spokeswoman Bendetta Roux said.

The manuscript, with some pages browned and fraying at the edges, has more than 700 corrections on its pages, many believed made in Hawthorne's own hand. Others were probably made by the publisher's proofreaders.

A Hawthorne relative donated the corrected page proofs in 1886 to the organization that later became known as the Natick (Mass.) Historical Society. The manuscript spent the next 118 years in a drawer, until trustee Roger Casavant came across it while doing an inventory of the society's collections. He identified it as the oldest existing copy of "The Scarlet Letter."

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