25 July 2007

Sylvia Plath collections: Sylvia Plath Collection, Smith College

The Mortimer Rare Book Room at Smith College holds the impressive, important Sylvia Plath Collection, 1940-1981.

From the abstract,

"The collection contains approximately 4,000 pages of Plath's manuscripts and typescripts. This includes a group of 67 poems in successive draft that are part of the Ariel poems. Also drafts of early poems, some with notes by Alfred Young Fisher. There are typescripts of The Bell Jar. Also drafts of articles, broadcasts, reviews and short stories. There are her journals, drawings and correspondence.

Correspondence includes letters to and/or from Al Alvarez, Dorothy Schober Benotti, Ruth Barnhouse, Ruth Fainlight, Ann Davidow Goodman Hayes, Elinor Friedman Klein, Philip Emerald McCurdy, Enid Epstein Mark, James Michie, Marianne Moore, Howard Moss, Hans-Joachim Neupert, Aurelia Schober Plath, Otto Emil Plath, Olive Higgins Prouty, G. Jon Rosenthal, Stevie Smith, Marcia Brown Stern, and other friends, publishers and editors.

Also memorabilia from childhood, school and adult life. Included in the realia is her English elm writing board, furniture she painted and her typewriter."

More information:
General information about the collection: Access is unrestricted, unless otherwise noted.

Organization: Organized in 15 series:
1. Writings
2. Correspondence
3. Personal papers
4. School papers
5. Artwork
6. Ted Hughes
7. Olwyn Hughes
8. Aurelia Plath
9. Otto Plath
10. Articles about Sylvia Plath
11. Reviews of Sylvia Plath's work
12. Audio visual materials
13. Photographs
14. Realia
15. Oversize

I have had the priviledge to use this collection many times in the last nine years. It is an extraordinary repository, and the staff is friendly and knowledgeable.


Jenny Evans said...


I've read your book on Plath and was happy to stumble across this blog, which is a wealth of useful information. Thank you for your updates here.

I've never visited any of the Plath collections, but hope to do so one day. I'd be interested in hearing your personal impressions of the Plath materials at Smith. Her life has been so written about--did you come across anything surprising in your research that you'd never seen before?

Thanks again!

Peter K Steinberg said...


First of all, thank you for reading my book! I am glad that you have found this blog useful, I hope to keep it up!

The big three, Smith College, Indiana University, and Emory University (primarily Ted Hughes, but some Plath too) are all worthwhile visits. Smith, in particular, has the Ariel manuscripts. Drafts of The Bell Jar appear on the verso of many of those Ariel poems.

One of the most spectacular items in the collection is Plath's elm wood plank writing desk, made in September 1961 by Hughes and Warren Plath. This is of course the table on which Plath wrote most of the Ariel poems.

The hold also Plath's original journals, and even though they are published in full now, it is still something worth looking at on any visit. And then they hold correspondence, too, a lot of which is unpublished and gives insight into moments of her life that may have been ignored by her biographers.

Those are just some of the things off the top of my head...


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