Sylvia Plath rare books and memorabilia

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wikicollecting

2015-06-26 10:51:04

Sylvia Plath rare books and memorabilia are collectible items relating to American writer Sylvia Plath (1932-1963).

 

Brief History/biography

Sylvia Plath is one of the most widely admired contemporary poets, known as one of the pioneers of confessional poetry, and with a huge cult following. Sadly, she is also famous for having committed suicide after a lengthy struggle with depression and marital separation from another popular poet Ted Hughes. Plath's works include the semi-autobiographical novel The Bell Jar (1963 under pseudonym Victoria Lucas, 1967 under Sylvia Plath), and her poetry collections The Colossus and Other Poems (1960), and Ariel (1965). Plath’s letters were also published in 1975, edited by her mother, and her journals, kept from the age of 11, were published in 1982.

Types of rare books and memorabilia

Books

Bloomsbury Auctions

  • Typescript of Aunt Rennie and the Elves, signed, circa 1943, sold for $4,000 in June 2008.
  • The Bell Jar (1963), first edition with dust jacket, sold for £1,000 in May 2001 and £1,100 in October 2009.

Bonhams

  • The Bell Jar (1963) first edition with dust jacket, sold for £1,673 in June 2004 and $2,074 in February 2011.

Christie’s

  • The Colossus and Other Poems (1960), first edition, inscribed by Plath to her high-school teacher, with a letter from Plath included. Sold for $35,850 in October 2002.
  • The Colossus (1960) first edition, inscribed to Ted Hughes’ parents, sold for $11,500 in December 1998.

Sothebys

  • The Colossus (1960) first edition, inscribed by Plath to her English teacher, sold for £17,500 in July 2009.

Documents, Autographs and Photographs

Christie’s

  • Handwritten letter to Plath’s mother, 1951-2, sold for $1,840 in November 1997.

Sothebys

  • Two early manuscripts handwritten, with drawings and signed by Plath. Sold for £5,000 in July 2009.
  • Illustrated typescript poem, a homemade get well card, sold for £4,000 in July 2009.
  • Self portrait drawn by Plath aged 17 circa 1949, sold for £3,750 in July 2011.
  • River view drawing of the anchor pub in Cambridge, inscribed by Ted Hughes on the reverse, sold for £3,000 in July 2006.
  • Drawing entitled ‘Meadow-Flowers’, sold for £1,800 in July 2006.
  • Drawing of a kettle, inscribed by Ted Hughes on the reverse, sold for £1,140 in July 2006.

Guide for collectors

The true collection of Ariel is often contested. The first edition of 1965 was edited by Ted Hughes, who re-arranged Plath’s chosen selection, and even dropping twelve of her chosen poems and adding twelve others. It was only in 2004 that a new edition was published, with Plath’s own choices in poems and order restored. Therefore Ariel is not as collectible as the first editions of The Bell Jar and The Colossus, especially as of course, these other works could potentially be signed, unlike Ariel which was only published after her death.

Much of Plath memorabilia is inevitably linked with that of her husband, poet Ted Hughes. His control of her works, his letters that mention her, his notes on her work are almost inseparable from Plath’s writing. The battle between their different versions of events leading up to their separation can be traced in their poetry, in their correspondence, and even later in the act of Hughes burning her last journal, not wanting her children to see the words produced during her most depressive moments.

Generally, the British editions precede the American editions. Presentation copies from Plath are exceedingly scarce.

Items connected with Plath’s life, particularly original drawings by her, are very collectible due to her large cult following.

Helpful information for Plath collectors can be found on this Sylvia Plath Info blog: http://sylviaplathinfo.blogspot.co.uk/2007/08/collecting-sylvia-plath.html.

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