There are fears an original Janet Frame manuscript could end up in private hands, out of public view, when it is auctioned in Wellington this week.
The Alexander Turnbull Library was offered the manuscript of the literary icon's 1966 novel A State of Siege earlier this year, but a deal wasn't struck. It's still hoped the library may buy the work, which is the first ever Frame manuscript to come up for sale, at the Dunbar Sloane rare book auction in Wellington on Thursday.
Typed on yellow A4 paper, the manuscript is all the more precious and revealing for its hand-written editing notes, a hand-written title page and dedication. Its reserve is set at $14,000.
Proceeds will go to the Centre for New Zealand Studies, at Birkbeck, University of London. The centre holds an extensive collection of New Zealand writing, film and graphic art.
Dunbar Sloane rare book auction manager Peter Trewern indicated fears the unique piece of New Zealand history would end up overseas again were unfounded. "It'll stay here," he said. But, "it's difficult to predict whether it will go to a public institution or a private collector".
The auction had excited much interest. Members of the Dunedin-based Janet Frame Literary Trust, founded by the author in 1999, were expected to join in the bidding fray.
Centre director Dr Ian Conrich told the Herald on Sunday the manuscript is one of eight Frame gave to her one time psychiatrist and friend, Robert Cawley, who helped restore the writer's confidence after many years of illness. Apart from an exhibition at the Alexander Turnbull Library and the upcoming sale, the manuscripts have always been in the Cawleys' hands in Britain.
Cawley's widow, Anne, gave the State of Siege manuscript to the centre for fundraising.