15 June 2016

Sylvia Plath auction at Bonhams: The Results

This post was revised on 17 July 2016.

Several Sylvia Plath lots of typescripts and books were offered today at Bonhams Knighstbridge as part of their Fine Books, Manuscripts, and Original Illustrations sale. I listened to the action of the auction live online and let me just say my stomach was turning somersaults and I was feeling anxious...and I was not even bidding. It is exciting and thrilling to bear witness to these sales: a true rush full of wonder.

The first five lots (167-171) were from the larger Plath archive that has been up for sale, piecemeal, after the whole archive failed to sell via Sotheby's in December 2014. Initially only one of the lots sold, however in doing some follow-up research, I learned that all five lots in the end did sell.

The second lots (172-174) are books formerly belonging to Winifred Davies, Plath's Devon midwife and friend. To sum these lots, the first two sold for above the high estimate and The Bell Jar lot sold for the high estimate exactly. Frankly I'm surprised these prices were not higher, especially for the Plath books.

Below are the lots and descriptions with the sale prices (inclusive of premiums/fees/etc.) listed in bold. If you are the winner: Oh, lucky, lucky you!

Lot 167
Sylvia Plath, Typescript draft, with autograph revisions, of her story "The Green Rock", and typescript of "Gramercy Park", with occasional annotations, 1948-9.
Sold £875 / $1,169

Lot 168
Sylvia Plath
Typescript draft with autograph revisions of her poem ʻSeek No More the Young', here with the deleted typed title "Latvian Threnody", [March 1949].
Sold for £937 / $1,330

Lot 169
Sylvia Plath
Carbon typescript of her story "Mary Ventura and the Ninth Kingdom", with letter of rejection from Mademoiselle magazine, 11 March 1953.
Sold for £625 / $835

Lot 170
Sylvia Plath
Two draft typescripts, in successive versions, of her poem "Go Get the Goodly Squab", Smith College, April 1953; ʻSOLD TO HARPER'S – APRIL 1953' – SYLVIA PLATH RECEIVES HER ʻFIRST REAL PROFESSIONAL ACCEPTANCE' AS A POET.
Sold for £625 / $835

Lot 171
Sylvia Plath
Typescripts and carbon typescripts of six poems, comprising: "Spring Sacrament", "Eve Describes Her Birthday Party", "To Ariadne (deserted by Theseus)" with copy, "Tulips at Dawn", "Spring Again".
Sold £875 / $1,169

Lot 172
Sylvia Plath
The Colossus & Other Poems, first American edition, AUTHOR'S PRESENTATION COPY, INSCRIBED "For Winifred & Garnett with warmest good wishes - Sylvia Court Green: 1962" on the front free endpaper, New York, Alfred A. Knopf, 1962.
Sold for £8,750 / $12,413
Bidding for the above lot was fast and furious and the bidding easily beat the high estimate.

Lot 173
Sylvia Plath HUGHES (TED) The Hawk in the Rain, FIRST EDITION, 1957; Lupercal, first American edition, New York, Harper & Brothers, 1960; Meet My Folks!, FIRST EDITION, 1961, AUTHOR'S PRESENTATION COPIES INSCRIBED "To Winifred [Davies] and Garnett with my best wishes from Ted, October 1962" (the second and third with addition of "North Tawton"); Wodwo, FIRST EDITION, AUTHOR'S PRESENTATION COPY INSCRIBED "To Winifred [Davies] gratefully from Ted, April 21st 1967", AUTOGRAPH LETTER SIGNED ("yours Ted H.") loosely inserted, 1967, unless otherwise stated Faber & Faber (4).
Sold for £2,125 / $3,014
Bidding for this lot also blew away the high estimate.

Lot 174
Lot 174 Sylvia Plath
The Bell Jar, FIRST EDITION, Heinemann, [1963].
Sold for £2,500 / $3,546

All links accessed 6 June 2016.

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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.
  • 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.