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No third novel from Harper Lee, expert says after examining manuscript

No third novel from Harper Lee, expert says after examining manuscript
Harper Lee in Montoeville, Ala., on May 19, 2010. (Penny Weaver / Associated Press)

The publication of Harper Lee's "Go Set a Watchman" this summer rocked the publishing world and dominated literary conversations around the globe. But it looks like there won't be a repeat anytime soon.

James S. Jaffe, an expert in rare books, examined the contents of a safe deposit box used by Lee, and determined that it does not contain a third novel, the Wall Street Journal reported. The manuscript in question is actually an early draft of the first part of "To Kill a Mockingbird."

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In a report on the contents of the safe deposit box, Jaffe wrote, "The present group of drafts therefore undoubtedly represents only a small portion of what must have been a larger body of Harper Lee's original working drafts for 'To Kill a Mockingbird.' ... [I]t is an extremely important collection, representing, in effect, the genesis of the novel ..."

The box also contains an edited manuscript of "To Kill a Mockingbird" and a typewritten draft of "Go Set a Watchman," Jaffe said.

Questions about the contents of the box were raised in July after the Journal published an op-ed article by Tonja B. Carter, Lee's attorney. In the article, which chronicles how Carter found the "Go Set a Watchman" manuscript, the lawyer wrote: "What of the other pages that have for decades sat in the Lord & Taylor box on top of 'Watchman'? Was it an earlier draft of 'Watchman,' or of 'Mockingbird,' or even, as early correspondence indicates it might be, a third book bridging the two? I don't know."

Carter then said she would be inviting "experts" to examine the documents. "As we celebrate the publication of 'Go Set a Watchman,' history demands no less from us," she wrote.

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