The archive titled "Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy: Letters to Fr Joseph Leonard, 1950-1964" contains more than 30 (mostly handwritten) letters. They will be sold in a single lot in an auction of rare books and manuscripts in the saleroom of Sheppard's Irish Auction House at Durrow, Co Laois, on June 10th.
Auctioneer Philip Sheppard said he anticipated interest especially from the United States and expected the archive to sell for "in excess of €1 million". The estimate is between €800,000 and €1.2 million. He described it as the "most most significant lot ever to be offered at auction in Ireland".
Apart from their monetary value, the previously unseen letters are likely to be released in book form by the purchaser and to generate considerable interest among historians, biographers, researchers and a public that continues to be deeply interested in the Kennedy story.
The auction will also include other Jackie- and JFK-related items, including photographs and Christmas cards sent from the White House signed by both Jackie and the president.
The sale of the letters is a major coup for an Irish auction house.
In 1996, the auction of Jackie Kennedy’s personal effects at Sotheby’s New York raised more than $34 million. Thousands of items went under the hammer in one of most famous sales in auction history.
Sotheby’s set up more than 90 telephone lines and had more than 70,000 bids in hand before the auction got under way. More than 100,000 copies of the catalogue were sold.
Some of the books sent over the years to Jackie from Fr Leonard, and inscribed to her, appeared in the auction and sold for thousands of dollars.
Sheppard's is a family-run business founded in 1948 that specialises in the sale of fine art and antiques. In recent years it has developed a niche market in Asian art and has attracted an international clientele for its frequent sales of Chinese antiques, especially porcelain and jade.
The auction will take place in the sale room in Durrow – a village in Co Laois about 100km southwest of Dublin – and will be broadcast live on the internet.
It is understood the archive, having been assessed and catalogued by the auctioneers, has since been removed to storage in a vault at a secure, off-site location until the auction.