06 April 2017

Ex-libris Sylvia Plath & Ted Hughes Book For Sale

A rare book recently appeared for sale that is not for the faint of wallet. Offered by Blakeney Griffin Booksellers of London, this copy of the anthology Light Blue, Dark Blue (1960) comes from the Estate of Olwyn Hughes.

Some of the particulars from the listing:

Publisher: Macdonald, London, 1960.
Book Condition: Not Set.
First edition, first impression.
Original blue cloth, titles to spine in navy blue. With the dust jacket. An excellent copy in the dust jacket.
Price: £8,500

Light Blue, Dark Blue is "An Anthology of Recent Writing from Oxford and Cambridge Universities" and was edited by Julian Mitchell & John Fuller for Oxford and William Donaldson & Robin McLaren for Cambridge.

"From the library of Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath with Plath's inscription to the front free endpaper, 'Ted & Sylvia Hughes London 1960'."

"A breath-taking copy of this notable anthology famously printing (besides a poem from Hughes's Hawk in the Rain) the first appearance of Plath's work in a regularly published book. Her privately issued publication A Winter Ship came out later in the year as did her landmark collection, The Colossus."

"Books inscribed by Plath are deeply uncommon for diverse reasons: her early death of course and also for reasons of physical isolation. The form of the present inscription - her use of the adopted surname combined with her choice to name Ted before Sylvia - seems telling and somehow poignant. We have never seen or even heard of another copy of this book bearing an inscription by Plath. (Provenance - Olwyn Hughes). Bookseller Inventory # 148"

Now, I do not mean to be a jerk but there are some peculiarities in the description such as the comment on this being Plath's "first appearance...in a regularly published book". Plath's poems appeared throughout the mid-to-late 1950s and into the 1960s in the annual Borestone anthologies titled Best Poems of (fill in the year), appearing in 1955, 1957, and 1958 as well as in 1960 and 1963. There is no need to try to drum up interest in a book with such a unique provenance with what is effectively a false statement. Light Blue, Dark Blue was printed once--not regularly-- and that is it. And then even more baffling is the statement about Plath's "adopted surname" and listing her husband's name first. First of all, "Hughes" was her legal, married surname and it is almost legendary that Plath put men first, as it were. From the time she lost the spelling bee to a boy in grade school to her comment on The Hawk in the Rain being accepted before Plath's first collection of poems, "I am so happy his book is accepted first. It will make it so much easier for me when mine is accepted".

There are other Plath books with both of their ownership names printed, such as Culpeper's Complete Herbal (1961), The Notebooks of Henry James (1958), and The Notebook of Malte Laurids Brigge (1959) but these are all "Sylvia & Ted Hughes". Several books have "Ted Hughes & Sylvia Plath". For those interested, a reconstructed "Sylvia Plath Library" can be viewed which lists books Plath either owned or for which there is documentary evidence to suggest she read.

An email inquiry to the booksellers for an image has not been answered. If it ever is, I will be sure to add it to this post.

Photos, below, added 1 August 2017. -pks

It makes one wonder what else might appear from Olwyn Hughes's estate...

Catalog description accessed 2 April 1960.

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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.