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Rivals vie for Buck manuscript

August 08, 2007|From the Associated Press

PHILADELPHIA -- Book lovers marveled in June when a Philadelphia auction house stumbled upon the long-lost manuscript of the 1931 Pearl S. Buck classic "The Good Earth."

The daughter of Buck's secretary said she had found the 400 typed papers in a suitcase in her cluttered basement. The auction house called the FBI.

But in the weeks since, joy over the discovery has been tempered by rival claims for the Pulitzer Prize-winning copy. No fewer than three parties -- Buck's heirs and two foundations with links to her -- have asserted rights to it, making a court fight likely.

Buck's children announced Tuesday that they have forged an agreement with one of the foundations. The heirs will lend the manuscript to a foundation that operates out of their mother's Pennsylvania farm, while retaining ownership. An exhibit is planned later this year.

The children learned Monday, though, that her West Virginia birthplace will vie for the papers, based on a notarized "bill of sale" that Buck signed in 1970, three years before she died.

The legal affidavit was filed at the Pocahontas County Courthouse in West Virginia on March 21, 1973, two weeks after Buck died. In the document, Buck estimates the value of her collection of manuscripts at $650,000 to $1 million, although she calls them "priceless to me."

She lists scores of documents, including " 'The Good Earth' manuscript, the exact location of which is unknown." Buck hoped the birthplace could leverage the papers to obtain matching funds to restore the historic birthplace in Hillsboro, Jacobson said.

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