12 March 2011

Sylvia Plath in Sotheby's Sold Lot Archive

A couple times since 2009, I have mentioned items at auction, including the Sotheby’s Sold Lot Archive which is an amazing time capsule into fine, unique, and rare Plath related items that have come and gone on and off the market. Below is a list of those items that can be found in Sotheby's Sold Lot Archive. Look! There is nothing wrong with looking! (On that note, I hope all the links work. It's been a while since I started this post...)

Over the next couple of weeks I will also highlight other archived auctions. I’m very interested in this kind of thing and having worked with many fine editions of Plath’s books in libraries and archives, and seeing a number for sale at book fairs, just knowing these things are out there (or were out there) gives me absolute hope that there is more! It’s also a glimpse into how the other half lives!

Not all of the auctions have images, but those that do are amazing, especially those that offer a zoom option. Book collecting is something I really do admire; though I'm financially limited to seeking out inexpensive reprints (particularly of The Bell Jar), I can dream...right? Most of the rare and limited edition book covers I have on my website were provided by generous booksellers, or by good old-fashioned image searching on "the Google" and other websites. In The Club Dumas, one of Arturo Perez-Reverte's book collectors says this of his books, "They are mirrors in the image of who wrote them. They reflect their concerns, questions, desires, life, death...They're living beings: you have to know how to feed them, protect them." I daresay one could say the same thing of the collectors: that they are images of those who collect them; mirrors into their lives & desires, etc. If you are a collector of Plath, by all means consider a Guest Post on what the hunt is like, and what the thrill is like of seeing a package arrive and opening it.

July 15, 1998
Lot 591: Plath (Sylvia) Pursuit, first edition, illustrated by Leonard Baskin, limited to 100 copies, original signed etching by Baskin loosely inserted, original olive morocco by Zaehnsdorf, slipcase, [Tabor A17], 4to, the Rampant Lions Press for the Rainbow Press, 1973 [1974]. This lot sold for £368, including Buyer's Premium.

Lot 592: Plath (Sylvia) Three Women. A Monologue for three voices, first published edition, limited to 150 copies, linocuts by Stanislaw Gliwa, [Tabor A3b.1], original cream coloured cloth stamped in gold, Oficyna Stanislawa Gliwy for Turret Books, 1968; Fiesta Melons, limited to 150 copies, original red cloth, dust-jacket, [Tabor A10], Exeter, the Rougemont Press, 1971; Crystal Gazer and other poems, limited to 400 copies, original quarter buckram with decorated Japanese paper boards, slipcase, [Tabor A9], the Rainbow Press, 1971; Lyonesse, one of 90 copies in full calf (of an edition of 400), slipcase, [Tabor A13], Rampant Lions Press for the Rainbow Press, 1971; first editions (4). This lot sold for £345, including Buyer's Premium.

Lot 593: The Colossus and other poems, her first collection of poems, original green cloth, dust-jacket (slightly soiled, a few small tears at the edges), [Tabor A2], Faber and Faber, 1960; Ariel, original red cloth, dust-jacket, [Tabor A5], Faber and Faber, 1965; Winter Trees, original blue cloth, dust-jacket, [Tabor A15], Faber and Faber, 1971; first editions, 8vo (3). This lot sold for £483, including Buyer's Premium.

Lot 594: A Winter Ship, first edition of the author's first separately published work, one of approximately 60 copies, single sheet folded once, [Tabor A1], 8vo, Edinburgh, the Tragara Press, 1960. This lot sold for £552, including Buyer's Premium.

Lot 595: Lucas (Victoria) The Bell Jar, first edition, original black cloth, dust-jacket (slightly creased, a few small tears and chips at corners), [Tabor A4], 8vo, William Heinemann, 1963. This lot sold for £862, including Buyer's Premium.

December 17, 1998
Lot 250: Plath (Sylvia) Lyonesse, number 3 of 400 copies, this copy one of 10, endpapers reproducing 2 of Plath's manuscripts, gilt vellum by Zaehnsdorf, top edges gilt, original clamshell box with gilt calf lettering-piece, light wear at extremities, [Tabor A13], folio in 4s, Rainbow Press, 1971; Crystal Gazer and other Poems, number 17 of 400 copies, this one of 20, plate after Sylvia Plath, ''Kelmscott style'' limp vellum gilt with silk ties by Zaehnsdorf, top edges gilt, original clamshell box, [Tabor A9], 4to, Rainbow Press, 1971 (2). This lot sold for £460, including Buyer's Premium.

July 12, 2002
Lot 525: Hughes, Ted and Sylvia Plath. First editions: The Plath items in this lot included: Ariel, (Faber, 1965, dust-jacket); The Colossus and other poems, (Heinemann, 1960, dust-jacket); 8vo. This lot sold for £1,792, including Buyer's Premium.

Lot 526: Hughes, Ted. A collection of the poet's works, together with those of Sylvia Plath and Thom Gunn. The Plath items in this lot included: Million Dollar Month (Farnham: the Sceptre Press, 1971, Limited to 150 copies); Wreath for a Bridal (Farnham: the Sceptre Press, 1970, Limited to 100 copies); Three Women (Turret Books, 1968, Limited to 180 copies); together with a set of the "Sycamore Broadsheets" 1968-1970, numbers 1 to 12 complete; FIRST EDITIONS, original bindings; 8vo (24). This lot sold for £896, including Buyer's Premium. The Sycamore Broadsheets are a series of poems, each printed singularly and does not appear to incude Plath.

March 23, 2005
Lot 199: Modern American Fiction: A collection of 39 volumes. Sold for £2,400 including Buyer's premium and included a 1971 Harper & Row edition of The Bell Jar.

July 13, 2006
Lot 288: River View Drawing of the Anchor Pub in Cambridge. This image was published in both the limited edition Fiesta Melons (1971) and the back of the American Harper & Row edition of The Bell Jar. This lot sold for £3,000 including Buyer's premium.

Lot 289: Preliminary Sketch Outline of Row of Buildings, Possibly a Cambridge River View.
This lot sold for £960 including Buyer's Premium.

Lot 290: Drawing of a Kettle. This lot sold for £1,140 including buyers premium.

Lot 291: Drawing of a Village Scene (Possibly Spanish), Depicting a Bell-Tower on the Left and Another Buildings on the Right, With a Cart in the Foreground. This lot sold for £900 including Buyer’s Premium.

Lot 293: Drawing of “Meadow-Flowers”. This lot sold for £1,800, including Buyer’s Premium.

In this auction there was one unsold lot. Lot 292, a drawing of Corn Vase girl. A different version of this sketch appears in Appendix II of Plath’s Journals (Kukil edition). This, and the Anchor Pub drawing, are by far among Plath’s best from this auction. I’m a little surprised this didn’t sell. The drawing has been published before, in the 1971 limited edition of Crystal Gazer and Other Poems.

July 14, 2009
Lot 107: Illustrated Typescript Poem in the Form of a Hand-Made "Get Well" Card ... This lot sold for £4,000, including Buyer's Premium. This item now held by the Lilly Library. See Plath mss. V.

Lot 108: Two Early Manuscripts. Including "Autograph manuscript with drawings, entitled "Christmas Booklet", signed "Sylvia Plath" " and "Autograph pencil manuscript, 11 leaves in a hand-made stapled booklet (110 x 85mm.), entitled "The Treasures of Sylvia Plath" on upper wrapper." This lot sold for £5,000, including Buyer's Premium. This item now held by the Lilly Library. See Plath mss. V.

Lot 111: The Colossus (William Heinemann, 1960). Signed and inscribed by Plath to Wilbury Crockett ("For Mr. Crockett -- In whose classroom and wisdom these poems have root -- from Sylvia London: October 27, 1960"); includes a Christmas card from 1960. This lot sold for £17,500, including Buyer’s Premium. This book is now for sale via Peter Harrington of London.

In this auction, Lots 109 and 110 did not sell. Lot 109 was and “Early typescript poem in the form of song lyrics entitled “Class Song.” It was estimated to sell for £1,500-2,000. Lot 110 was Path’s bookplated copy of The King’s Henchmen by Edna St. Vincent Millay, and was estimated to sell for £5,000-7,000. The book was a gift her her mother and bears a touching inscription, “To my imaginative, artistic Sylvia”. The book also bears her mother’s ownership inscription “Aurelia F. Schober,” and is dated with a very significant date “August 24, 1927”. It was of course August 24, 1953 of course that Plath first attempted suicide. The catalog description says it is dated August 27 but by zooming in on the date one can clearly see that it is a 24; especially when compared to the 27 in the year.

Another item mentioning Plath that is of note:
July 12, 2002: Lot 527: Hughes, Ted. Typescript of part of his radio play ``The Head of Gold'', together with four printed works. This lot sold for £956, including Buyer's Premium.


Julia said...

I remember seeing some of these a while back. It's too bad they don't all have pictures, but at least the drawings are there. It still astounds me that a 12-year-old--ANY 12-year-old-- could write something as lovely as her "Earth and Sky" Christmas poem.

Melanie Smith said...

Thank you for this Peter, I know, I know, my post will come.

Peter K Steinberg said...

No worries Melanie! Julia, I know!Plath's talent, even as a 12 year old, makes me feel guilty for having no skills at three times that age...dang, now I feel sick.

Simply amazing. I'd love to have attended one of these! I'd also love to know who now has the drawings! & who sold them.


Melanie Smith said...

Not to big note myself but at 12 I wrote poems, had one published, wrote a musical (thank god only my parents saw that in my lounge room - it went for an hour, poor them), wrote a kid's horror novel (that I also illustrated), made copious paper dolls, and made copies of Picasso drawings etc etc. Not saying any of it was brilliant, but children can do amazing things.
My son wrote a poem at 4. It is pretty funny, it is all about his dad.

Melanie Smith said...

I am also amazed by what my students write.

That said, Plath remains a great talent and I certainly do not mean to undermine or lessen that in case my post came across that way. I just wanted to reflect that I am constantly surprised and insprired by the smart and talented children around me.

Anonymous said...

Seeing these books and the prices they fetch reminds me how far Sylvia Plath's books have come since the 1960s. Very interesting posts.


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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.