13 June 2007

Sylvia Plath collections: Edward Butscher Collection of Papers

The Mortimer Rare Book Room in the William Allan Neilson Library at Smith College holds several different Sylvia Plath collections. The collection I will highlight here concerns Edward Butscher, Plath's first biographer. Butscher is almost single-handedly responsible for much of the information we know today on Plath. This does not necessarily mean he did a great job with the materials he collected, but all Plath biographers do owe him some credit. In fact, I have never successfully finished his biography; in some ways he may have done more harm than good.

The collection begins with Butscher's correspondence. He was able to get information from a wide variety of sources. Some notable people in Plath's life are Richard Norton, Cyrilly Abels, Wilbury Crockett, and Myron Lotz, amongst many, many others. The collection also holds Butscher's research notes and manuscripts for his 1976 biography, Sylvia Plath: Method and Madness as well as his 1977 collection of essays, Sylvia Plath: The Woman and the Work.

The collection also includes photocopies and printed versions of Plath's poetry and prose, fragments of Letters Home, as well as articles and essays about Plath. The collection includes 15 photographs of Plath, of her children, of places she lived, her grave, and the Wellesley High track team. The second to last series (Series III: Other Papers) contains some very interesting items, which I've pasted below:

  • Clippings about Sylvia Plath (5 items) 1949-50

  • Clippings about Sylvia Plath at Mademoiselle (1 item) 1953 Aug

  • Clippings about "Sylvia Plath" (play) (3 items) 1974 Jan

  • Clippings about Sylvia Plath's suicide attempt (9 items) 1953 Aug

  • Death certificate of Sylvia Plath: COPY 1963 Feb 11

  • Documents of Plath and Schober families (23 items) 1918-56
    - Birth certificate for Frank Richard Schober
    - Death certificates for Otto Plath, Theodore Plath, and Aurelia Greenwood Schober
    - Divorce of Otto and Lydia Plath
    - Marriage certificate for Frank and Louise Schober
    - Street listings for 892 Shirley St. and 92 Johnson Ave., Winthrop, Massachusetts
    - Tax reports for 892 Shirley St. and 92 Johnson Ave., Winthrop
    - Voter registrations for Aurelia S. Plath, Frank Schober, and Frank R. Schober
    - Winthrop Cemetery Plot Record

  • Obituaries of Sylvia Plath (3 items) 1963

  • School notes of Sylvia Plath for "The Novelist & the Unknown": photocopy n.d.

The finding aid to the Edward Butscher Collection of Papers on Sylvia Plath is online here. Use the sidebar on the left hand side of the screen to view the scope and contents notes, as well as series descriptions, and box and folder contents.

The Mortimer Rare Book Room web site is here.
The Neilson Library web site is here.


Annika said...

Do you know what the Sylvia Plath-play from 1974 is in reference to? The only Plath-play I'm aware of from the 70s is Rose Leiman Goldembergs Letters Home, from 1979.

Peter K Steinberg said...


I believe the play was "Three Women" which was running in London in 1974. I can check a resource I have at home and post back later tonight.


Annika said...

Oh, so then it's Plath's own play. I thought perhaps it was a play about SP. Thanks for your quick answer!

Peter K Steinberg said...


I checked Stephen Tabor's Analytical Bibliography and there was a play called Sylvia Plath in 1974, in addition to Three Women. It was performed by the Royal Shakespeare Repertory Theatre Group with Brenda Bruce, Estelle Kohler, and Louise Jamison. Performance at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, January 1974. Plath's words from interviews, letters and works, with linking narrative from A. Alvarez's The Savage God.

Annika said...


Thank you very much, that was very interesting information for me. (I am currently writing something about Sylvia Plath as a fictive character.)

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