27 March 2011

Bonhams Sylvia Plath Sold Lots

Earlier I've gone through the sold/past lot of Sotheby's and Christie's. Today it's Bonhams & Buttefields. B & B's sold lot archive only goes back to 2003 as of right now.

In lot 418 on 29 June 2004, a Heinemann first edition of The Bell Jar by Victoria Lucas sold for £1,673.

In lot 89 on 11 May 2005, a threesome set of First Faber editions sold for £165. The three titles were Ariel, Crossing the Water, and Winter Trees. A steal...

It is likely we all remember lot 73 in the 3 October 2005 sale of a hand-drawn portrait of Ted Hughes by Plath that sold for £27,600.

A handsome edition of the first Faber Bell Jar (1966) sold for £264 in lot 85 on 20 May 2008. Also on this day in lot 146 a Heinemann first of The Bell Jar with a truly terribly dust-wrapper failed to sell.

Then there is that letter from Sylvia Plath to "Miss Reutlinger" that failed to sell in lot 2211 on 13 February 2011. I'm beginning to think that Kim's idea of a few people pitching in $1,000 wasn't such a bad idea after all. Maybe if it comes up for auction again we'll take her up on that, though I think the letter should be given to an archive and the donated can write it off for a tax deduction.

Most recently a first Faber of Ariel failed to sell in lot 6174 on 9 December 2010. This edition is kind of identity-confused as a slip glued in by Harper & Row indicates that it is actually to be considered the uncorrected proof, presumably of their 1966 edition. This item reappeared at their 27 February 2011 in lot 7205 for a lower estimate and sold for $195, inclusive of buyer's premium.

This book seems unique. I had emails with the sales people at Bonham's and they were kind enough to send images (posted here) and a little more description. It's the Faber edition of Ariel, first edition, second impression, but contains a glued in slip acknowledging it as the uncorrected proof of the Harper & Row edition. The second impression contains the same text as the first issue (in fact, a first edition, second impression copy is currently for sale on eBay, thanks RM) To someone like me, I wonder about the obvious differences between the British and American editions: the Lowell introduction at the start, and then the presence of poems like "The Swarm," "Mary's Song," "Lesbos." Does this Ariel have notations indicating the need to add the new poems? No, according to Bonhams. But note that in the image the page count is 102 pages! The first Faber is 86 pages; the first Harper's is 85. From where did they get that 102 pages?

Uncorrected proofs are an interesting aspect to Sylvia Plath book collecting. Very few American edition proofs are out there: I've never seen one for The Colossus, Ariel, Winter Trees, or The Bell Jar, for example. There are some reasonably priced proofs of Johnny Panic and The Journals (1982) on the market. I have written to booksellers with Plath proofs for sale in the past and they have been kind enough to supply images for my website for all our enjoyment. You can see some of the poetry volumes here and prose volumes here. And I guess this seems as good a time as any to mention I have an article coming out in the spring Fine Books & Collections on uncorrected proofs of the Heinemann edition of The Bell Jar.

On March 29, 2011, the Roy Davids collection will be going to the block, here is a review of the sale. And here is an introduction to the sale, written by Roy Davids. There is no Plath stuff in the auction, but there is a photograph of Hughes with the other giant Faber Poets. And Plath was in the room then, wasn't she?

I'll try to stay on top of all the auction websites going forward to let you know of Plath items. Save you money: Buy Plath!


Melanie Smith said...

Thank you for this Peter, always interesting to see what has been happening in the book market.

I look forward to reading your article!

Peter K Steinberg said...

Melanie - You're welcome. It's great that this information is out there and hope that one day older sold lots are also made available. It would really help in tracing the value of a books or manuscript.

I'll let you know when the article/issue is out. Some of FB&C's articles are available on their website but I'm not sure if my piece will be or not...


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