By Patricia Reaney
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Letters, an unpublished short story and William Faulkner's Nobel Prize medal could sell for more than $2 million when archival materials of the author are sold at auction in June, Sotheby's said on Thursday.
Faulkner, whose books include "The Sound and the Fury" and "Sartoris," is considered one of the most important American authors of the 20th century. A native of Mississippi, he set much of his work in the American South and often in the fictional Yoknapatawpha County.
Faulkner's Nobel medal and diploma, and the hand-written draft of his 1950 Nobel acceptance speech, are being auctioned as one lot with a pre-sale estimate of more than $500,000. It is expected to be the highlight of the June 11 sale in New York.
"We have the medal itself, then we have the diploma, which is very colorful, and we also have the speech. The first draft of the speech is written on Algonquin letterhead," said Justin Caldwell, vice president of Sotheby's books and manuscripts department, referring to the New York hotel.
"To my knowledge we have never handled a Nobel Prize medal," he added in an interview.
Justin Caldwell, vice president of Sotheby's books and manuscripts department, said the archive, being sold by the author's family, provides a window into key moments of Faulkner's life, including the time he spent in Paris in the 1920s and later in Hollywood when he turned to screenwriting, as well as insights into his novels.
Some of the items, which had been feared lost, were recently found on the family's property in Virginia, according to Sotheby's. An unpublished 12-page short story entitled "The Trapper's Story," which was discovered on the property, is expected to sell for $30,000 to $50,000.
Another item thought to have been lost, an original book of poetry called "Vision in Spring," will also be included in the sale. It was published in 1984 from a photocopy.
Caldwell said items relating to Faulkner are much rarer in the auction market than letters and possessions of other American authors such as Ernest Hemingway or F. Scott Fitzgerald.
"Things just don't come up," he explained. "There is just not that much out there. There are many more Hemingway letters or Fitzgerald letters than there are Faulkner," he said.
"It is really unusual to see this much at once."
The auction will include 16 personal letters with drawings and 10 signed postcards that Faulkner sent from Paris to his family in which he describes his early impressions of the city. They are expected to fetch up to $350,000.
Faulkner received the Chevalier de la Legion d'Honneur medal in 1951. It will also go under the hammer with a pre-sale estimated value of $35,000.
A Christmas present from Faulkner to his daughter Jill, 25 inscribed and signed volumes of his work bound in blue leather, is expected to be another sought-after item.
All of the items in the sale will be on display at Sotheby's in Paris in May before the New York sale.
(Editing by Todd Eastham)