Dawn Powell's Diaries For Sale

powellyoungsevere.jpgThe Cleveland Plain Dealer reported last week that the complete diaries of novelist, playwright, and short story writer, Dawn Powell, spanning the years 1915-1965, are for sale. Not with Christie's, Sotheby's, or another of the major auctions houses or antiquarian booksellers -- the 43 volumes are being privately auctioned by the owner, Pulitzer Prize-winning critic and biographer Tim Page, as a single lot. The required opening bid is $500,000.

According to the FAQs on the auction's informational website, DawnPowellDiaries.com, Page states, "The advancement of social media now permits a seller to bypass the auction houses and reach an interested audience without incurring prohibitive commission fees. Moreover, I like the fact that I can control the sale of these documents and make sure that they find a proper and respectful home." Page has owned the diaries for almost twenty years. He told the Plain Dealer that he purchased "her entire papers for about the price of an automobile" from Powell's cousin and literary executor.

Cover-1931-Diary-P01-16-400x600.jpgPowell's 1931 diary, referred to as "The first of Powell's great diaries" because it is meatier than her previous appointment-book like diaries.

Powell was born in Ohio but relocated to New York's Greenwich Village, where she spent the rest of her life. She wrote hundreds of short stories and more than a dozen novels in the mid-twentieth century. A revival of her work occurred in the 1990s, when Page edited and published her diaries and letters wrote a biography about her.

Terms of the forthcoming sale include ensuring that a full copy of all manuscripts "is available to scholars and to the public, through a library or research center." The diaries are currently housed at the Columbia University Rare Book and Manuscript Library, where interested buyers can view them by appointment. The buyer will not own the copyright to the material; that will be retained by the Estate of Dawn Powell.

Cover-1947-Diary-P03-08-400x600.jpgPowell's 1947 diary records her visit to John Dos Passos and a hospital stay.

Interested bidders who can agree to Page's terms and initial bid level are asked to contact him directly through his website. A legal process will narrow bidders by July 1, and final bids will be accepted until July 15, 6:00 P.M., EST. One final caveat: "The highest bid will not necessarily claim the Diaries: the owner reserves the right to place them in what he considers the most appropriate hands."

Images courtesy of Tim Page.
Thanks to Jeremy Dibbell/Philobiblos for the tip.