01 September 2015

Sylvia Plath's copy of Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead

Earlier this summer I had the opportunity to work with Sylvia Plath's copy of Ayn Rand's novel The Fountainhead which is held privately.

Sylvia Plath's library is largely divided between three major collections: Emory University, Indiana University, and Smith College. For several years now I have maintained a reconstruction of Plath's library (if you will) via LibraryThing as a part of their Legacy Library project. This list includes books not only owned by Plath at the time of her death, but also books Plath mentioned in her letters and journals, as well as those that appear in papers she wrote and other archival documents. There is still work to be done in the project so check her catalog periodically.

The three main collections can be looked at the following way: those at Indiana University were books that Plath left behind when she moved permanently to England in December 1959; those at Smith College were books Plath had with her in England at the time of her death that Ted Hughes selected; and those at Emory were those books Ted Hughes retained after Plath's death and held back from the sale of Plath's later papers to Smith College.

Front cover, spine, and rear cover of Sylvia Plath's
copy of Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead
Sylvia Plath's copy of The Fountainhead was one such book left behind in Wellesley in December 1959. It is the triple volume Signet / New American Library edition (T934) first published in 1952; a fat paperback copy with a gaudy cover, and a cover price of 75¢.

Well read and worn, the book is in three parts now, with two large chunks (pages 1-210 and 211-478) completely unglued from the spine. The third portion (pages 479-720) is still attached but precariously so. I came armed with laptop, camera, book foams for support, and book weights to prevent the pages from popping up. Of the books' 720 pages (including front and back matter), there are handwritten annotations in the form of underlines, marginal lines (including brackets), stars, and some textual commentary on 202 pages. This means that approximately 28% of the book is marked. In addition to the pen annotations, Plath turned down many page corners. Plath's name and date appear on the front free endpaper (which is also page 1 of the book). Though acquired in 1954 according to her ownership signature, Plath's 1955 calendar, held by the Lilly Library, notes that she read The Fountainhead on Monday-Tuesday, 13-14 June 1955. It is unclear if Plath read it in the year the book was acquired. That she read the book in two days makes her rather more amazing than I believed previously. After Plath's death, Aurelia Plath gave this book to the person who has owned it since that time. It was a privilege and an honor to work with this book and to be able to blog about it for you. Perhaps the most fun was copying Plath's annotations into my own copy of The Fountainhead. I was able to find the exact edition Plath had on abebooks.com.

Below is a table of page numbers and the kinds of annotations that appear on each page respectively.

Page
 Annotation type (underline, star, marginal line, text)
1
(ffep), text: Sylvia Plath, 1954
16
underline, marginal lines
18
underline
21
marginal line
38
marginal line
39
underline
43
underline
47
underline
54
underline
57
marginal line
58
underline
59
marginal line
67
marginal line
72
marginal line
73
Text: NO ; NO; marginal line
89
underline
98
marginal line
99
marginal line
100
marginal line
106
underline
130
star; marginal line; underline; corner turned down
131
underline
132
underline
133
underline
134
marginal line; underline
141
marginal line; underline
142
marginal line
149
marginal line
159
underline
163
marginal line; underline
167
marginal line
172
marginal line
180
underline
194
underline
202
marginal line; corner turned down
206
marginal line; underline
208
underline
227
marginal line
231
underline
232
marginal line
235
marginal line
236
marginal line; underline
239
underline
241
underline
245
underline
246
marginal line
251
marginal line
255
underline
263
marginal line
265
underline
266
marginal line
268
underline
272
marginal line; corner turned down
276
marginal line
281
marginal line; underline
285
marginal line; underline
302
marginal line
303
underline
305
marginal line; underline
306
star; marginal line
307
marginal line; underline
311
marginal line; underline
313
underline
318
underline
322
marginal line
326
marginal line
335
marginal line
354
underline
359
underline
362
marginal line
363
marginal line
364
marginal line; underline
370
marginal line
371
underline
372
marginal line; underline
383
underline
384
star; underline; corner turned down
398
marginal line
399
marginal line
421
underline
423
marginal line; underline
424
marginal line
432
marginal line
435
marginal line; underline
436
underline
437
underline
441
underline
447
marginal line
453
marginal line
454
underline
455
underline
456
marginal line
457
marginal line
459
underline
463
marginal line; underline
466
underline
468
underline
473
underline
477
underline
480
marginal line; underline
481
underline
482
marginal line
484
marginal line
485
underline
487
marginal line; underline
488
marginal line; underline
491
marginal line
492
marginal line
498
marginal line
499
marginal line
500
underline
503
marginal line; underline
504
underline
505
marginal line
506
underline
508
underline
509
underline
510
underline
511
marginal line; underline; corner turned down
514
marginal line; underline
517
marginal line
518
marginal line; underline
525
underline
529
marginal line
530
marginal line; underline
532
star; underline
533
underline
534
marginal line
541
underline
543
underline
550
marginal line
553
star; marginal line; underline; corner turned down
554
marginal line
564
star; marginal line; underline
565
star; underline; corner turned down
566
marginal line; underline
568
marginal line
570
TEXT: NO! ; marginal line; underline
573
marginal line; underline
578
marginal line
583
marginal line; underline
584
marginal line
585
TEXT: God! ; marginal line; underline
588
marginal line
589
underline
590
marginal line
593
marginal line
594
star; marginal line; underline; corner turned down
595
marginal line; underline
596
underline
597
underline
598
star; marginal line; underline
599
marginal line; underline
604
underline
609
underline
612
underline
615
marginal line
616
star; underline
617
marginal line
618
marginal line
620
marginal line; underline
621
star; marginal line; underline
622
marginal line; underline
623
star; arrow; marginal line; underline; corner turned down
624
TEXT: Yes ; marginal line; underline
625
star; marginal line; underline; corner turned down
629
marginal line
640
marginal line; underline
641
marginal line; underline
642
underline
650
marginal line
651
marginal line; underline
652
marginal line
653
marginal line; underline
654
TEXT: Hideous prophecy of collectivism; marginal line; underline
655
star; underline
656
marginal line; underline
657
star; underline; corner turned down
658
underline
659
underline
661
star; underline; corner turned down
676
underline
678
marginal line
680
underline
686
marginal line; underline
694
underline
696
marginal line
698
marginal line; underline
699
underline
700
star; underline; corner turned down
701
marginal line; underline
702
star; marginal line; underline
703
star; marginal line; underline
704
marginal line; underline
705
underline
706
marginal line
711
underline
716
check
717
check
718
check
719
TEXT: Saw film ; check
720
check; arrow


 
If you made it through all that, your reward is more images!
Sylvia Plath's ownership signature
Sample pages (700-701)  with annotations
The Fountainhead and its box

The current state of the book

Glue.
Postscript: Plath absorbed something from everything she read. After reading the novel myself in August (same edition, with annotations copied from Plath's into mine), I think it is possible to argue that her encounter and interaction with The Fountainhead manifest itself in her recollection of her famous meeting with Ted Hughes. There are two particular scenes in the novel that come to mind and both involve Howard Roark and Dominique Francon. The language in the novel, at least, I think informed Plath's word choice in her journals when she wrote:
His poem "I did it, I." Such violence, and I can see how women lie down for artists. The one man in the room who was as big as his poems, huge, with hulk and dynamic chunks of words; his poems are strong and blasting like a high wind in steel girders.
Much has been said on comparing Hughes to Emily Brontë's Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights. There is a different kind of purity and romanticism in Roark than there is in Heathcliff. But I wonder how much of Howard Roark might have been read into Hughes' actions and attitudes?

2 comments :

Julia Gordon-Bramer said...

I love this post, Peter. As you may know, I have spent many weeks and months in the Lily with Plath's annotations in other books, and I am in entire agreement with you that books other than Wuthering Heights have been highly influential.

While Ayn Rand is much-maligned as a writer and politician, The Fountainhead is an artist's book, to be sure. I think it is her best work and quite brilliant.

Would love to see WHAT was underlined, for those of us who can't make it out to the Emory archives anytime soon. ;-)

Peter K Steinberg said...

Thank you for your comment, Julia. Sylvia Plath's copy of The Fountainhead is held privately, so going to Emory would only lead to disappointment at not finding it there. Though naturally I'm sure Emory has enough other archival materials to make any such disappointment only temporary - like a bee box.

~pks

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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." Plath Profiles 2. Summer 2009: 183-208.
  • 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 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: The Unearthing of Sylvia Plath. Oxford: Fonthill, 2017. Forthcoming.
  • 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.
  • Gill, Jo. "Sylvia Plath in the South West." University of Exeter Centre for South West Writing, 2008. (Photograph used)
  • Elements of Literature, Third Course. Austin, Tex. : Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 2009. (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. 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. Sylvia Plath (Great Writers). Philadelphia: Chelsea House Publishers, 2004.
  • 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. "Sylvia Plath." The Spoken Word: Sylvia Plath. London: British Library, 2010.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "'They Had to Call and Call': The Search for Sylvia Plath." Plath Profiles 3. Summer 2010: 106-132.
  • 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. "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. "Textual Variations in The Bell Jar Publications." Plath Profiles 5. Summer 2012.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "Writing Life" [Introduction]. Sylvia Plath in Devon: A Year's Turning. Stroud, Eng.: Fonthill Media, 2014.

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