01 July 2018

Sylvia Plath at Auction

Dominic Winter, an auction house in England, recently featured a few Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes lots in their 21 June 2018 sale. In each instance the lot sold for more than the high estimate.

Lot 838 was a lot of five Ted Hughes books and one Plath limited edition (Child). This sold for £220.

Lot 866 was a very lovely first edition copy of Ariel (Faber) which sold for £500.

Lot 867 was an uncorrected proof of The Colossus (Heinemann) which from the image appears to have been a stunning copy. This sold for £1,950.

Lot 868 saw a nice looking first edition copy with a closed tear on the front of the dust jacket of Ariel (Faber) sell for £420.

On the previous day, 20 June 2018, Dominic Winter sold a 1967 copy of Plath's The Colossus as part of a general lot which also featured J. D Salinger. Lot 535 sold for £130.

It might be hard to think that any auction could ever possibly top the Bonhams event early this year selling the Property of Frieda Hughes. More than likely, we'll see smaller sales. For example, recently Nate D. Sanders flipped two lots: Plath's Pulitzer Prize and her Massachusetts driver's license (part of the lot that featured six additional IDs and a wallet).



Both items failed to sell with zero bid, which indicates not a lack of interest, I suspect, but that the bidding prices were unreasonable.


In the current summer issue of Fine Books & Collections, when you turn over the front cover you are confronted with Sylvia Plath's unmistakable handwriting. I know when I turned the cover I was completely arrested by it. The sample comes from a newly made-known letter. The six-page letter from Sylvia Plath to Katharine Benion was written on 3 March 1951. It will appear at auction in Bonhams New York on 6 December 2018. Estimates are $7,000 to $10,000. More information will be available later on in the year and I am already anxious about that. I suspected the letter existed as there is the incoming letter from Katharine Benion to Sylvia Plath held in Plath mss II at the the Lilly Library. Getting confirmation of the document is reassuring, but also frustrating as I am confident this would have been a fantastic letter to have in the book. It is my hope we can have a copy of it for later editions of the book.

Also in the summer issue of Fine Books & Collections is a wonderful article by Ian McKay on page 21 which is a page-long summary of the big Frieda Hughes. Bonhams sale in March. The article focuses on The Bell Jar but does make reference to several other lots. As of today I have tracked 56 lots though the ones that contained multiple items which were purchased by booksellers are now being dispersed far and wide.

All links accessed 23 June 2018.

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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.

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