Harvard has until five o'clock today to decide whether to bid for what may be an original working copy of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem "The Village Blacksmith."
The manuscript, which Pinehurst, Tex. resident Mark G. Holmes bought in a frame for 25 cents at a garage sale last year and retrieved from his closet two months ago, appears to be in Longfellow's handwriting. Scholars believe it to be a rough draft of one of Longfellow's most famous poems.
The Harvard College Library, which encompasses the entire library system, may offer to buy the manuscript from Holmes, Curator of Manuscripts Leslie A. Morris said yesterday.
"We are interested [in purchasing the manuscript] because of Longfellow's Harvard connection," Morris said.
Longfellow was Professor of Modern Languages at Harvard from 1837 to 1854. Houghton Library currently houses many of his papers and manuscripts, including an original copy of "The Children's Hour" and corrected proofs of "Evangeline."
But Morris said the College Library would not add "The Village Blacksmith" to the Houghton collection if the manuscript were too expensive.
"It's completely dependent on what the price will be," she said. "We're not going to pay fantastic sums for this."
"We do have other [Longfellow
Morris said she considered the manuscript, ifauthentic, "to be worth under $10,000."
Dorothy Z. Baker, a professor of Americanliterature at the University of Houston who helpedHolmes verify the manuscript, said yesterdayHolmes has been contacted by "between five to tenbidders" with bids ranging "between $8,000 and$10,000."
Holmes said he will stop accepting bids for themanuscript at five o'clock today.
When he bought the manuscript, Holmes said heand his wife Deborah had never heard ofLongfellow.
"I bought it for the frame," he said. "I don'tknow anything about early 19th century literatureat all. I went to antique dealers, and one antiquedealer said I should start calling professors."
The Harvard College Library will try todetermine the manuscript's academic value beforedeciding whether to make a bid, Morris said.
"The first thing we consider [when buying amanuscript] is its research value--[whether it is]something students at Harvard would be interestedin working on," Morris said.