19 March 2011

Christie’s Sold Sylvia Plath Lots

In the past I have reported on Sotheby's Sold Lot Archive (see the 500th post and also the 598th post of this blog) and how it is a fascinating glimpse into one faction of the book markets' supply & demand. Here is a look at Christie's sold lot archive. There is some cool stuff...

First a hybrid book that was mentioned in the Sotheby's post a week ago...The Wilbury Crockett copy of The Colossus that sold in on 2009 at Sotheby's was sold through Christie's (seven years earlier if you want to know) in lot 53 on 11 October 2002 for $35,850. The sale price at Sotheby's was £17,500, or roughly $28,550, so it actually represents a loss of about $7,300. This copy is currently for sale for £37,500 (or $60,518.64) through the reputable and estimable Peter Harrington Rare Books of London.

I hope that you are seated...On 9 December 1998 - just 42 days after Ted Hughes passed away - this very unique copy of The Colossus sold in Lot 46. This was an inscribed copy that Sylvia Plath sent to her in-laws in Yorkshire! Included was a color picture of Plath with Frieda and Nicholas at Court Green that I imagine was inserted into the book after Plath’s death, but possibly before. It’s a touching gesture, if this is what happened. I weap that the price was $11,500 as that is freakin' dirt cheap. I miss 1998!

Are you still sitting? I also miss 1997, when a letter from a collegiate "Smithie" Plath sold for $1,840 on 12 November of that year in Lot 52. The details of this letter were: Autograph letter signed ("Your happy girl Sylvia") TO HER MOTHER Aurelia Plath, Smith College, Northampton, Mass., n.d. [Winter 1951 or 1952]. 2 pages, 8vo, both sides of a blue sheet of stationery with Smith College heading. The auction description goes on to say, “A rapturous account of "the nicest weekend I ever had" skiing in the New Hampshire hills near Francestown: "...Marcia and I...went out into the most beautiful world imagineable [sic]! Snow had fallen in a fine powder last night, and the sun was out in a snow-blue sky...it was one of those heavenly dry-cold days, with blinding sun and snow and sharp blue shadows. The air was swimmingly blue. A kind neighbor loaned me a pair of skis and I 'skiid' for the first time in my life...I have never been so thrilled in my life!...Skiing, if you can do it well, must be pretty close to feeling like God..." Not in Letters Home and presumably unpublished."

We know Plath went skiing with Marcia Brown in February 1951; and an image of the two collegians appears in a couple of biographies and in the Unabridged Journals. Over on Flickr, Enigma14 has a photograph of the house and trees where Plath & Brown had their picture taken! Thanks Engima14! And by way of comparison, Enigma14 has a scan of the photo of Plath & Brown there, too.

A number of Victoria Lucas Bell Jar's have sold through Christie's too at prices that would make your mouth drop at their un-high-ness. On 13 November 2008 a first edition sold for $557 in lot 220; on 8 April 2003, a copy sold for $777 in lot 195; and on 18 October 1991, a copy sold along with a first edition of Nadine Gordimer's The Lying Days for $342 in lot 253.

A copy of the limited edition Crystal Gazer and Other Poems sold along with an uncorrected proof of the Faber Winter Trees and another limited edition, Child, on 30 November 2005 for $866 in lot 52.

But wait, there's more.

A copy of the limited edition Fiesta Melons sold in lot 212 on 7 March 2007 for $694 as part of a lot of books; and truly drool-inducing is this copy of a proof of Lupercal which sold in lot 158 on 11 October 2002 for $11,950. Why the call an uncorrected proof with visible corrections an uncorrected proof escapes my logic, but whatever (it should have been called a corrected uncorrected proof)... a truly remarkable, fabled book... A point of contention after reading the auction description, I could not see the book sticking out of his jacket in the Faber Poets photograph, but it can be seen in this image which I presume was taken on the same day on Faber's Flickr thing.

A copy of that full Faber Poets photograph is going for sale in lot 107, via Bonhams, on 29 March 2011 as part of the Roy Davids Collection II sale.

This concludes this blogs 600th post!


Melanie Smith said...

Thank you for all your work Peter, your blog and site continue to be the most wonderful Plath resources out there. You provide us all with so much, and HAPPY 600TH POST!

Oh for the prices of years gone by.

Peter K Steinberg said...

Thanks Melanie! I never thought I'd quote Cher on this blog, but "if I could turn back time..."

It means a lot to know that you appreciate whatever is I'm doing here on this blog!


Anonymous said...

These are amazing to see. Especially that Colossus that Plath sent to her in-laws. Seeing that picture just brings tears to my eyes.

And all those Heinemann Bell Jar's! I have a unique Bell Jar story of my own (at least I think it is unique) and these posts have inspired me both to post a comment (I'm normally a lurker) and to write up my own story, which I hope your readers will be open to?


magiciansgirl said...

Hey Peter! Happy 600th! And to celebrate, your book is currently the most expensive Sylvia Plath auction item on Ebay - $1000! kim

Peter K Steinberg said...


Hi! Thanks. What a rip off! Amazon has a copy for $12, which is still $11 more than it's worth.


Thank you for your comment. Yes, we'd love to hear your story (sorry, readers, if I'm speaking for you).


Julia said...

We definitely want to hear Margi's Bell Jar story.

Happy Anniversary, Peter! Good work!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your enthusiasm Julia. I hope to finish the piece by Monday or Tuesday. I have enjoyed reading your guest blogs and your work in other online places. Keep it up!

-Margi N.

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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.