16 November 2010

Plath at the Boston Book Fair

The Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair was held this weekend at the Hynes Convention Center. As usual, I attended to drool over Sylvia Plath books and other very fine collectibles. Hot authors this year that were very well represented were Graham Greene, John Steinbeck, and Mark Twain. Under represented was Sylvia Plath, IMHO.

Jett Whitehead was there again from Michigan. He has perhaps the greatest collection of Broadsides, Chapbooks, First Editions, Letters From Poets, Modern Poetry, and Poetry Manuscripts to be had in a single booth and under one roof on the planet. Jett in the past has exhibited a autograph manuscript copy of Plath’s poem “The Snowflake Star” (circa 1946). He used to have a first edition of Ariel with thatch drippings from Court Green signed by Ted Hughes to the poet Janos Csokits. Jett is particularly Plathian: “The blood jet is poetry...”

Between the Covers Rare Books out of Gloucester City, New Jersey was there. They have impressive holdings and stock if you’re interested in modern firsts and rare books. And to boot, they have a great website chock-full of color images, some which rotate. If you’re interested in beginning a collection on Plath (or another author), ask for their specialized author catalog.

James S. Jaffe Rare Books is another dealer with amazing quality stock, including the copy of The Colossus that Plath sent to Theodore Roethke (dated 13 April 1961, or five years to the day that she flew back from Rome to London and to Ted Hughes). He has also a copy of Howls & Whispers, Ariel (first Faber), “Sculptor”, and a rare copy of the appearance of “Dialogue en Route” from the Smith Review.

Of course, there is much, much more. Thomas Goldwasser has a proof copy of the ultra rare Trois Poemes Inedits, which were poems by Plath, uncollected and neither published or listed in her Collected Poems. (Of the books mentioned so far this was the only one that was at the fair that I saw.) Not to turn this post into a dissertation on Trois Poemes Inedits... but there were just 100 copies printed of Trois Poemes Inedits. While WorldCat lists only one copy in a library (UNC Chapel Hill); the Mortimer Rare Book Room at Smith College has a very lovely copy of this with the manuscript handwritten poem tipped in. The manuscript poem is on a sheet of paper torn from a top-spiral notebook; the paper is something like five by eight inches or so. As mentioned, there were 100 copies printed, 97 are “normal”; while the three others are especial (so special indeed we add the e for emphasis). These three especial copies include the manuscript page of the poem (like the copy at Smith). I’m on the fence about this Trois Poems Inedits. The copy at Smith, with its ripped out manuscript sheet of notebook paper, had the air of something stolen. The Goldwasser copy is the editor's proofs and as one would thus expect they are marked up with layout and designed notes throughout. Quite unique. You can see a cover image of Trois Poemes Inedits on the Limited Editions page of my website.

Now to what I did see!

Boston’s Peter L Stern & Co had on display his $12,500 copy of a Victoria Lucas Bell Jar (pictured here). This is “The Most Expensive Bell Jar in the World”. This is one of the most glorious and gorgeous copies imaginable. Jeffrey H. Marks Rare Books of Rochester New York also has a copy for this price. While Marks was at the fair I did not see his copy of Bell Jar displayed (though I certainly may have missed it if it was). Also on had was Raptis’ $3,750 copy of the same title. This is “The Second Most Expensive Bell Jar in the World”. Both Jonkers Rare Books and Athena Rare Books had beautifully bright copies of the first Faber Ariel. The Jonkers copy is £750 ($1,200); the Athena $1,200. (More on Ariel later this week; maybe at the weekend...) I saw some Faber first editions of The Bell Jar, Crossing the Water, and Winter Trees. I saw one first Harper & Row Ariel, too. As for the limited editions, there was a reasonably priced copy of Three Women (1968, $700); as well as copies of Two Poems, The Green Rock, and Lyonnesse.

One of the many joys of this event is just walking around, looking at the pretty, fine books, judging them by their covers (in fact, many of the book covers in the Book Cover Galleries of my website have come from some of these dealers past or current stock.). And of course I don't solely look at Plath stuff... The older editions from centuries past looking more like museum artifact's than reading material, the prints and broadsides, autographs, ephemera, occasional artworks and the genuine goodness of the dealers. As 99.999% of the stuff there is outside of my means, it sure is fun to look and touch. To read more about the Boston Book Fair (and oh so much more), please head over to my friend Philobiblos’ blog.

Can’t wait for next year!

13 comments :

Anna said...

Oh! Oh! How exciting! I wish I would have been there! A Victoria Lucas copy is my dream... who needs expensive travels and stuff like that, I should skip it all and save for The Bell Jar!!! ;)

Peter K Steinberg said...

Anna, There is nothing like seeing and holding this book. Fortunately there are many libraries that hold this and some very close to me in and around Boston. WorldCat lists 39 libraries. If you click that link, make sure to click the "Just this edition" to see where they are...

As you are in Germany: there is a big book fair at Frankfurt each year and I imagine some of the same booksellers that were in Boston display at Frankfurt. The Fair's website should list exhibitors and you'll likely have better luck with English or American booksellers than with German or other European ones.

If owning a copy is your (or anyone's) thing; a list of Victoria Lucas Bell Jar's for sale via abebooks.com can be found here. (I included the 1964 Contemporary Fiction edition.) Any of the booksellers I listed in the post would be wonderful in assisting & providing advice to anyone in starting a collection of their own.

magiciansgirl said...

Hi Peter - Jett is in Baycity, right? I need to make a trip there - it's only about 2 hours north from me...I suppose I should ask him to value my Plath book and the 2 cards from Ted...I need home repairs! :-)

I got all excited about 'Trois poemes intedits', because I thought I had a copy, and then I realized I had 'Trois Femmes'...oh well! kim

Melanie Smith said...

Hi Peter, is there any information on when the poems in 'Trois...' were written?

Peter K Steinberg said...

Kim - Yes, Jett is just up in Bay City. That's a frustrating and sad reason to sell your books but understandable. If you go to him tell him I sent you! Trois Poemes/Trois Femmes. So close!

Melanie, I thought I put something in there about my best guess as to when they were written but I see that I did not. Definitely High School or very early College. I'd be willing to say not after her Freshman year judging from the content and that she references a "Bob", who I suspect is Bob Reidemann, a College boy she dated whilst in High School.

Peter K Steinberg said...

Ooops. I really didn't mean to hit publish there as I wanted to mention the notes I took at Smith when I worked with that copy (I stupidly didn't transcribe the poems).

The first poem is written like many of her first College journals and address "you".

The second poem is about woman/women; an in particular a woman's breasts and reproductive organs & parts, etc. The last line calls for mutilation of the sex organs.

The third poem recalls an evening in Boston and suggests the old Scollay Square or the theatre district around Downtown Crossing and Tremont Street. This poem mentions "the memory of being seventeen" - which has a lot to do with my own dating of them, obviously. Plath dated Bob Reidemann when a senior in High School (1949-1950).

Again, sorry I don't have full transcriptions... Like I said, they were likely all ripped out (i.e. stolen) from a top-spiral notebook. This could place the original notebook in Wellesley which means it could now rest at the Lilly Library, where the majority of her early/Wellesley papers now live. I suppose we should be thankful these ever saw the light of day and we should be doubly thankful for any documents that did make it to the archive!

pks

Anonymous said...

HI, Peter...very interesting stuff. You mention "Three Women"(1968, $700.). Does that refer to the little pamphlet with the Kathy Kollwitz drawing on the cover that was done on the West Coast? --Jim Long

Peter K Steinberg said...

Hi Jim,

No, I mean the 1968 full-on authorized limited edition designed by Stanislaw Gliwa and published by Turret Books with the Douglas Cleverdon introduction. My apologies for not being specific.

pks

Julia said...

I would love to know the story of some of these books: especially how Roethke's autographed Colossus got there--did he give it up during Plath's lifetime? Afterward? I know they died the same year.

I have a hard time parting with ANY books personally inscribed. It astounds me that anyone would!

Peter K Steinberg said...

Julia! You could write the bookseller and ask about its provenance and report back? Or, if you want me to I'll do it?

I should add that of the dealers I mentioned, Between the Covers has the largest stock of Plath books (by and about). Other dealers at the fair that didn't make the post that have Plath stock too include Peter Harrington of London. Y'all may recognize this name as he this shop is the one that has Wilbury Crockett's signed Colossus purchased at auction in July 2009.

Julia said...

That's a fun idea, Peter. I will do that over the holiday, I think. :-) I am happy to report my findings.

The Plath Diaries said...

Really fantastic to see a photograph of a Victoria Lucas 'Bell Jar'! I can only imagine what it would be like to see it in reality!

Peter K Steinberg said...

Maeve - Glad that you like the picture! I'd be surprised if a copy couldn't be found for you to see in Ireland, although according to WorldCat you have to go to Edinburgh, Wales, Oxford or London to see one. If you come back to the States sometime, let me know and we can go to Smith or Harvard...

pks

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