18 September 2012

Sylvia Plath Collections: The New York Public Library

The New York Public Library has a couple divisions that hold Sylvia Plath manuscripts and related materials. In the Manuscripts and Archives division is The New Yorker records, which holds correspondence to, from, and about Plath. The Berg Collection holds a varied assortment of Plath materials, from juvenilia to late works. This post will merely summarize the holdings, and but to learn more, either visit the library yourself (recommended) or please see "These Ghostly Archives 4: Looking for New England" by Gail Crowther and myself, published in Plath Profiles 5 (Summer 2012) (also recommended).

New Yorker Records

The bulk of material on Plath is in Series III, Editorial Correspondence, subseries 3.3 Fiction Correspondence, 1952-1980, for the following years; 1958, 1959, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1970, 1971, 1973, 1977. In the scope and content note, it explains that poetry correspondence is included in the fiction correspondence file. There are also some Plath related items in Legal & Financial Files (Series V, see Plath, Sylvia - Contractual Agreements, 1960-1963) and Manuscripts Run and Killed (Series VI, see 6.12, PLATH, Sylvia - “On Deck”: Run 7/22/1961).

The letters from Plath are really quite incredible and amazing. In "These Ghostly Archives 4: Looking for New England" I introduce and discuss this correspondence at some length. It is the first time that I am aware of that this correspondence has been used in a Plath-related article and it is my hope that writers/scholars better than me (which are let's admit most writers/scholars) will be able to make much better use and make more sense from it. In several of the "These Ghostly Archives" papers, Gail and I have discussed at length how powerful Plath's business correspondence is. Plath's business letters shows a different perspective on Plath: how driven, candid, and assured of herself that she was. I will be presenting on this topic at the Sylvia Plath 2012 Symposium in October (26 October: 9:30-9:55 in the Oak Room). The paper is titled "Sincerely Yours: Sylvia Plath and The New Yorker."

Berg Collection

The materials in the Berg collection used to be all "Uncataloged Manuscripts" but some of them have now been cataloged. The Berg holds:

Cartoon of a koala bear (Juvenilia)
Alphabet and birthday quatrain (Juvenilia)
Postcard to her grandmother (Feb 1956)
Trixie and the balloon (Story, Juvenilia)
Camping list (Juvenilia)
Pencil drawing of campsite (Juvenilia)
Winter and magic (Story, Juvenilia)
9 pencil tracings and drawings (Juvenilia)
Notebook of copied poetry (With "Activities and Awards" sheet)

"Brasilia" (With 2 other poems)
"Brasilia" (With 2 Bell Jar poems)
"Insomniac"

An additional copy of Ariel (Faber, 1965) complete with a thatch drip stain is now a part of the famous Berg Collection at the New York Public Library ("Signed note on flyleaf by Ted Hughes describes edge stains as 'thatch drip' from S. Plath's roof." The call number is: Berg Coll (Plath) 00-24). This copy was also written up in a 2010 New Yorker article by Ian Frazier called "Marginalia".)

Please visit my website A celebration, this is to see more archival repositories holding Sylvia Plath papers.

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