16 September 2009

Crockett's Colossus

On 17 July, 2009, I posted the results of some Sylvia Plath materials at Sotheby's in London. In this auction, Plath's The Colossus went on the block; this copy being quite special as it was the copy she signed and inscribed to her English teacher Wilbury Crockett. A Christmas card was included. The selling price was £17,500.

Well, the buyer of the was Peter Harrington, of London. I've seen his books at the Boston Antiquarian Book Fair for the last few years - he's got great stuff and he's a high end dealer. Those interested now in owning Wilbury Crockett's former copy of The Colossus will have to shell out £37,500. The other items that sold have not yet surfaced in bookseller inventories so it it possible these went to private owners or other places.

Ian MacKay also wrote about this in the September 2007 issue of Fine Books Notes. See "A Colossal Colossus" here.

Crockett lived, at the time, at 9 Summit Road in Wellesley, according to Plath's address book, which is housed as part of the Sylvia Plath Collection at the Mortimer Rare Book Room, Smith College.


Anonymous said...

I don't know about you, Peter, but I find this kind of thing reprehensible: to buy soemthing at auction (which really establishes its collectible value) for 17.500, and then to turn around immediately and try to market it for over twice that price -- I find that unconcionable and I hope nobody buys it from him for that price. It's one thing to be a "high-end" dealer...it's quite something else to be a highway robber.
--Jim Long

magiciansgirl said...

I always find it strange that someone would shell out a huge amount of money (US$28,000+ in this case) for a book or other item
associated with Plath, mark it up for more than twice what they paid for it, and then put it up for sale toute de suite. First, the market for this kind of item - and the power to buy it - is rather limited. I would think that in this economy, the most likely buyer - a university, perhaps - would have little in the way of $ to expend on such an item. And if a university or other entity really wanted it, wouldn't they have known about the auction and bid at that time? Using the Internet and one's professional connections it's not difficult to know when rare objects like this are going on the block. If they had a losing bid, would they really then want to pay more than twice the auction price? And furthermore, I have seen Plath items linger on various Antiquarian Bookseller sites for years. But maybe Mr. Harrington is content to wait for a long time to reap a profit. I remember a few years ago, a typescript of Ariel was offered by a seller for $75,000. Another seller bought it and put it up for sale for $125,000 immediately there after. I do think it sold eventually, but wouldn't you be kicking yourself for not having a winning bid at the first auction?! Oh well, it's not like I'm ever going to suffer that particular pain. I'm firmly a 2 to 3 digit figure girl when it comes to Plath (but not if I won the lottery!)

Peter K Steinberg said...

And, this isn't even the most expensive edition out there for The Colossus out there! The one Plath signed for Theodore Roethke is $65,000! I've had the opportunity to see and handle this copy at book fairs. It's really a great copy. This kind of purchase I suspect is for the private collector - not the university. And for it being unconcionable or reprehensible, I can merely shrug my shoulders because this is just the way the rare book business is...

magiciansgirl said...

Boy, I'd hate to be that private collector who, with a little research or foresight, could have snapped it up for $28,000 - but then again, if you have that kind of money, perhaps it doesn't matter! Something I will never know about!

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Publications & Acknowledgements

  • BBC Four.A Poet's Guide to Britain: Sylvia Plath. London: BBC Four, 2009. (Acknowledged in)
  • Biography: Sylvia Plath. New York: A & E Television Networks, 2005. (Photographs used)
  • Connell, Elaine. Sylvia Plath: Killing the angel in the house. 2d ed. Hebden Bridge: Pennine Pens, 1998. (Acknowledged in)
  • Crowther, Gail and Peter K. Steinberg. "These Ghostly Archives 3." Plath Profiles 4. Summer 2011: 119-138.
  • Crowther, Gail and Peter K. Steinberg. "These Ghostly Archives 4: Looking for New England." Plath Profiles 5. Summer 2012: 11-56.
  • Crowther, Gail and Peter K. Steinberg. "These Ghostly Archives 5: Reanimating the Past." Plath Profiles 6. Summer 2013: 27-62.
  • Crowther, Gail and Peter K. Steinberg. "These Ghostly Archives, Redux." Plath Profiles 3. Summer 2010: 232-246.
  • Crowther, Gail and Peter K. Steinberg. "These Ghostly Archives." Plath Profiles 2. Summer 2009: 183-208.
  • Crowther, Gail and Peter K. Steinberg. These Ghostly Archives: The Unearthing of Sylvia Plath. Oxford: Fonthill, 2017.
  • Death Be Not Proud: The Graves of Poets. New York: Poets.org. (Photographs used)
  • Doel, Irralie, Lena Friesen and Peter K. Steinberg. "An Unacknowledged Publication by Sylvia Plath." Notes & Queries 56:3. September 2009: 428-430.
  • Elements of Literature, Third Course. Austin, Tex. : Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 2009. (Photograph used)
  • Gill, Jo. "Sylvia Plath in the South West." University of Exeter Centre for South West Writing, 2008. (Photograph used)
  • Helle, Anita Plath. The Unraveling Archive: Essays on Sylvia Plath. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2007. (Photographs used, acknowledged in)
  • Helle, Anita. "Lessons from the Archive: Sylvia Plath and the Politics of Memory". Feminist Studies 31:3. Fall 2005: 631-652.. (Acknowledged in)
  • Holden, Constance. "Sad Poets' Society." Science Magazine. 27 July 2008. (Photograph used)
  • Making Trouble: Three Generations of Funny Jewish Women, Motion Picture. Directed by Rachel Talbot. Brookline (Mass.): Jewish Women's Archive, 2007. (Photograph used)
  • Plath, Sylvia, and Karen V. Kukil. The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath, 1950-1962. New York: Anchor Books, 2000. (Acknowledged in)
  • Plath, Sylvia, and Peter K. Steinberg and Karen V. Kukil (eds.). The Letters of Sylvia Plath, Volume 1, 1940-1956. London: Faber, 2017. Forthcoming.
  • Plath, Sylvia. Glassklokken. Oslo: De norske Bokklubbene, 2004. (Photograph used on cover)
  • Reiff, Raychel Haugrud. Sylvia Plath: The Bell Jar and Poems (Writers and Their Works). Marshall Cavendish Children's Books, 2008.. (Images provided)
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "'A Fetish: Somehow': A Sylvia Plath Bookmark." Court Green 13. 2017.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "'I Should Be Loving This': Sylvia Plath's 'The Perfect Place' and The Bell Jar." Plath Profiles 1. Summer 2008: 253-262.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "'They Had to Call and Call': The Search for Sylvia Plath." Plath Profiles 3. Summer 2010: 106-132.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "A Perfectly Beautiful Time: Sylvia Plath at Camp Helen Storrow." Plath Profiles 4. Summer 2011: 149-166.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "Proof of Plath." Fine Books & Collections 9:2. Spring 2011: 11-12.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "Sylvia Plath." The Spoken Word: Sylvia Plath. London: British Library, 2010.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "Textual Variations in The Bell Jar Publications." Plath Profiles 5. Summer 2012.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "The Persistence of Plath." Fine Books & Collections. Autumn 2017: 24-29
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "This is a Celebration: A Festschrift for The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath." Plath Profiles 3 Supplement. Fall 2010: 3-14.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "Writing Life" [Introduction]. Sylvia Plath in Devon: A Year's Turning. Stroud, Eng.: Fonthill Media, 2014.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. Sylvia Plath (Great Writers). Philadelphia: Chelsea House Publishers, 2004.