Hundreds of papers, once the property of the late poet Ezra Pound and stored in a trunk for most of the last 50 years, are at the center of a battle between Yale University and three Washington area siblings.

Valued at more than $100,000, the papers include letters and manuscripts that once belonged to Pound - American poet, a towering figure in modern literature, alleged traitor and a patient at St. Elizabeths Hospital here.

Pound is credited with bringing to public attention writers such as Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce and T.S. Eliot.

After Pound died five years ago, Yale claims, the university bought drafts, manuscripts and proofs of his first 16 cantos and bought correspondence between Pound and Hemingway, Joyce, Eliot, Willia Butler Yeats, Thomas Hardy and William Carlos Williams.

Also claiming the papers are Sally Wilson Hall of Reston. Ann Remington Southerland of Arlington and their brother, Thomas W. Wilson III of Washington, who say that Pound gave them to their grandfather in 1924 to keep for him. Now they want to sell the papers to Indiana University.

Last week, Yale filed suit against the family in U.S. District Court in Alexandria to gain control of the papers for Yale's Pound archives, which Yale boasts is the largest existing concentration of Pound's works.

"They're just more of the same thing that we have." People come here expecting to see the entire collection," said Donald Gallup, curator of Yale's Center for the Study of Ezra Pound and His Contemporaries.

Not owning the contested papers is like "having the first draft and the fifth draft, but you don't have the second, third and fourth drafts," Gallup said yesterday. "We're incomplete."

The Pound papers are valued so highly, Gallup said, because almost all of them "are locked up here in Yale."

Southerland, Hall all and Wilson want to sell the papers to Indiana University's Libby Library. "As far as I know, that was (the best) offer," Southerland said.

According to papers filed by Yale in federal court, the Pound papers were given to the three area residents' grandfather, William Bird, in 1924 while Pound was en route to Italy. Bird was to return the property to Pound upon demand, Yale said.

But Pound made no demand for their return nor did anyone acting on the poet's behalf, according to attorney Victor M. Glasberg, who represents the brother and sisters. "All of a sudden out of the blue comes this allegation that Yale owns what belongs to this family."

In Italy during World War II, Pound made radio broadcasts for Mussolini and was indicted for treason in 1943. He was arrested by Italian partisans in 1945 and turned over to the United States Government.

The next year Pound was found incompetent by the U.S. District Court in Washington, a legal status be kept until his death Nov. 1, 1972. From 1948 to 1958, he had been an inmate at St. Elizabeths.

In 1973, Yale purchased from the administrator of Pound's estate all the rights, title and interest in Pound's papers, excluding family correspondence, Yale contends. Three years ago, the administrator was told for the first time that other papers exist, Yale alleged.

The papers are being kept at Indiana University until ownership is determined, Glasberg said.