16 November 2011

Sylvia Plath at the Boston Book Fair

Before we look at Plath at the Boston Book Fair, I have recently learned that several limited edition books of Plath's published by the Rainbow Press are for sale through the Mayor Gallery in London. These books are being sold by both Frieda Hughes and her aunt, Olwyn Hughes. It appears that there is almost a complete liquidation of Plath by her daughter. That appalling thought notwithstanding, I have seen these books in libraries and they are nice books and the second two, Dialogue Over a Ouija Board and Lyonnesse, at that price point, are quite reasonable given their rarity. Lyonnesse is particularly nice as the endpapers contain a facsimile of Plath's poem "Lyonnesse," though under its original title "Amnesiac: The Man With Amnesia."

Crystal Gazer and Other Poems £250
Rainbow Press, London, 1971
Limited edition of 400 (only 25 available)
There is a reproduction of the 'Study of a Figurine' in this book.

Dialogue over a Ouija Board £350
With a drawing by Leonard Baskin
Rainbow Press, 1981
Limited edition of 140 (only 10 available)

Lyonnesse £350
Rainbow Press, London, 1971
Limited edition of 90 (only 10 available)

Should anyone be interested in buying me a copy of the above please let me know and I'll give you my shipping address! If you are interested in Plath's posthumous limited edition publications, I have collected images from booksellers and private collectors and have them on this page of my website for Sylvia Plath.

The Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair

Overall there was less of a bibliographic presence for Plath at this years Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair. But, even still there were really some beautiful Plath books on show and overall, some stunning other volumes as well.

The first thing you saw when you walked in the door this year was the booth of James S. Jaffe. And, prominently displayed is his recently reduced price first Heinemann edition of The Colossus which Plath signed for Theodore Roethke. Years ago the book was priced at $50,000; then it rose to $65,000, but now it is back down to its more reasonable $50,000 price tag.

The next booth I stopped in at was Between the Covers from New Jersey.  They had on hand beautiful first editions of Ariel (Harper, $475) and Crossing the Water (Faber, $450). Additionally, they had their recent acquisition of Plath’s copy of Edna St. Vincent Millay's The King’s Henchman ($10,000). The book includes a book plate with Plath's signature, as well as an inscription from Plath’s mother. Connected to Between’s booth was Ken Lopez who had the drawing Plath did of a teenage friend.

Caliban Book Shop of Pittsburgh had a decent edition of Bumblebees and Their Ways by Plath's father for $250.  I have seen the dust wrapper before, but only online. In person it is really attractive.

A nice book dealer, Paul Foster of London, had three Plath books: A Day in June, The Green Rock, and a rebound Ariel (in fine leather binding). The fine leather bindings bother me; I think it means a first edition of the book was found in a crumby dust wrapper, or lacking a dust wrapper, or with damage to the original boards so they rebind it and thus are still able to charge a lot for it, in this instance £500. I understand I think why book sellers do this but I do not like it.

A couple of book stalls had first Harper & Row editions of The Bell Jar (Jeff Hirsch, $350, and G. Curwen Books, $475).  The online price, on abebooks.com, for Curwen’s copy is $400. Hmmmmmm...

Royal Books of Baltimore had a first Knopf edition of The Colossus for $950 (I've seen nicer, for less). 

Athena Rare Books from Connecticut had four Plath books on hand, each stunning and lovely. They had first Faber editions of Ariel ($1200), Crossing the Water ($400), and Winter Trees ($250). Additionally, they have a copy (#8) of The Magic Mirror ($750).

The pièce de résistance is Jonkers Rare Books $11,000 copy of the first Heinemann Victoria Lucas The Bell Jar. In a nearly perfect, exquisite dust wrapper, the book looks as fresh as it must have when it was printed in later 1962 or early 1963.

Whilst I have not the means, someone out there is buying Plath as a few books I had seen in years before were no longer there. Dealers are pretty open that things have sold. So, I am happy for the person who is or the people who are buying these books. Jonkers had a delicious copy of Ariel: Sold. (They actually had two and they both sold) B & B had a lovely Heinemann Colossus with a review slip: Sold. In fact, there used to be more than a dozen copies of the Heinemann Colossus and the Heinemann Bell Jar listed on abebooks.com and now there are far fewer. I did leave with a purchase though from our good friend in poetry, Jett Whitehead. A first edition, third printing of Ted Hughes' The Hawk in the Rain (Harper & Row). Set me back only three and a half Hamilton's.  I have long wanted this in hardback for a few of the poems that I like, as well as for the dedication "To Sylvia."

All in all a great fair as usual. Any time one can walk around and talk with book dealers, get a little education on the books & the trade, hold precious volumes (a copy of The Great Gatsby for $192,000) is a good time. Speaking of The Great Gatsby... Although, I have linked to this before (13 August 2010  and 22 August 2007), you can read "A Description" by Park Bucker of Plath's copy of Great Gatsby, which is held by the University of South Carolina and joins other Fitzgerldiana as part of the The Matthew J. and Arlyn Bruccoli Collection of F. Scott Fitzgerald.


Julia Gordon-Bramer said...

Oh, how I'd love those three Rainbow Press books, as well as Bumblebees and Their Ways!

It is curious about Frieda and her fire-sale. I may have to lay some tarot cards down on the subject. ;-)

magiciansgirl said...

I'm glad that Lopez is finally selling the portrait by SP as being of her friend, Arden, and not a self portrait, which has been pointed out for several years now, not oly by me, but by Plath's own family. However, the price seems to be the same ($30k - it may be less by $5k). He points out that the Hughes portrait by SP that sold for $49k was less finished, but it's a portrait of Hughes by Plath - much more desirable to collectors. Re: the Rainbow Press books - I assume that since there are so many of the same volumes, there's no sense in holding on to them and I'm sure both Olwyn and Frieda have plenty of Plath and Hughes material that they are not parting with, so I'm not all that bothered by this. I'm bothered more by the sale of Plath's drawings, but then there may be quite a few more still in the family. Remember that there has been quite a bit of contention between Carol Hughes and the rest of the family re: Ted's estate,and it's possible O and F need the cash.

Anonymous said...

How can it be possible that they "need the cash"?! Frieda alone owns the copyright for all of Plath's work since her brother's death, which means she profits from the sale of everything she wrote (and in this case drew). The idea that FH might be hard-up because of contention over the TH legacy is ridiculous.

magiciansgirl said...

Well, it's great that you anonymously think my speculative thoughts are ridiculous. Frieda has no real career (never really has had one), had a recent divorce, and owns quite a nice house which no doubt requires some $$$. Olwyn is in her 80's and likewise is no longer working and aside from controlling access to Plath's work while Ted was alive (even so, she stopped doing this in the 80's or 90's) has not held a high paying job. I read somewhere fairly recently that she was selling some property outside the UK and she likewise sold letters to the British Museum for not a terribly large sum of money. I have no idea how much the sale of Plath's work or Ted's work actually makes for the estate. If anyone out there does, do tell. There may be a cottage industry for Plath's work,but she's not Stephen King and poetry - however famous the poet - is a bit of a niche market. Ted left around 1M to 1.5M pounds or so after his death - how much went to Frieda and Olwyn we don't know - the contention over the estate should indicate that they do not feel they received a fair share. Then factor in death taxes, which can be quite high. So, these are the facts and ideas that informed my ridiculous speculation & ideas. Feel free to sign your name next time you comment and we might be able to have a civil discourse and exchange of ideas.

Peter K Steinberg said...

Anonymous and Kimrah-rah-ah-ah-ah!Ro-mah-ro-mah-mah, I think I agree with pieces of what you both have commented on. Frieda Hughes has for a long time been caught between a rock and a hard place by fans and critics of her parents work. It is not an enviable position to be in by any stretch of the imagination. And really, what she earns and how she spends is is really none of my business. And I'd say it's really no ones business...

Most poets do not earn what Ted Hughes earned or what the Estate of Sylvia Plath earns, and they get by on the merits of their work, teaching, and likely other pursuits. The argument could be made that Frieda Hughes (and really, all of us) should not live in excess of her (our) means, that it is her (our) responsibility to spend her (our) income and savings wisely and responsibly. Enough of the moralistic generalization! I like opinions and I like be critical of people I don't know, but the Frieda debate is tried and tired at this point...

That being said, the money Frieda Hughes earns comes from at a minimum the royalty checks from her mother's estate or her own work, or through the sale of her mothers archive, possibly through Ted Hughes' estate, radio & public appearances, and journalistic endeavors.

But, just as she makes some money, she equally takes money from her own pocket. Denying people the permission to quote from the estate of Sylvia Plath by placing an embargo against the quoting of any unpublished Plath material is one of those ways. By denying those filmmakers the permission to use Plath's words in Sylvia also didn't help her purse, which would have brought additional royalties through the sale of the DVD and maybe the script. If she had more involvement and/or been more co-operative, perhaps they would have made a better film.

Anyway, I fear that can of worms that will get upended and which will have to be picked off of me like sticky pearls...


magiciansgirl said...

Hey Peterkins! I'm guessing the options re: why the sell off seems to be happening are few - either someone needs money or someone is greedy or someone needs money and is greedy. And you are correct, FH could have made more money if she had cooperated with the filmmakers of Sylvia. So, who knows and ultimately, it doesn't matter, other than original materials not going into public archives for study, etc.

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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.