01 September 2018

This is Number Three: The Sylvia Plath Auction

The Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes Bonhams auction in March is the gift that keeps on giving, it seems. Because nearly one-quarter of all the lots were purchased jointly between two booksellers, dozens of items are appearing now individually for sale. This is how I procured two additional possessions of Frieda Hughes' in addition to Plath's fishing rod. In July I posted about the presentation copy of Alan C. Jenkins's White Horse, Black Bull, acquired from Modern First Editions. This blog post is about the third, and perhaps final, item from the auction which I have purchased.

I have always had an interest in uncorrected proofs of Plath's books. They represent a pre-first edition state, were printed in extremely limited quantities, and often serve as a bridge state between manuscript and first edition. Peter Harrington Books of London acquired Lot 377 which was comprised of thirteen total books. Eleven of them were lightly described in the Bonhams catalog leaving two out.

From the catalog:
1). The Bell Jar, small piece cut away from upper fore-corner of front free endpaper [Tabor A4a.3], 1966; 2.) idem, paperback edition, 1966, each signed by Frieda Hughes; 3.) idem, [Tabor A4b], New York, 1971; 4.) Crossing the Water, [Tabor A11a], 1971; 5.) idem, light marks at gutter margins of endpapers [Tabor A11b], New York, 1971; 6.) Winter Trees, [Tabor A15a], 1971; 7.) idem, [Tabor A15b], New York, 1972; 8.) Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams, introduction by Ted Hughes [Tabor A21a], 1977; 9.) idem, [Tabor A21b], New York, 1979-- 10.) Sylvia Plath: Drawings. Introduced by Frieda Hughes, signed by Frieda Hughes, 2013, unless otherwise stated publisher’s cloth with dust-jackets, 8vo; and 11.) 3 others, including copy 121 (of 400) of Lyonnesse, Rainbow Press, 1971 (13)
So two books were not described. One of them appeared in a small catalogue Harrington produced and it had all the hallmarks of being something that would tempt me:
PLATH, Sylvia.
Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams and Other Prose Writings.
London: Faber and Faber Limited, 1977

Octavo. Unbound and untrimmed sheets. Some light soiling, else in good condition.

Uncorrected proof copy, from the library of Ted Hughes, who collected the writings and contributed the introduction. Signature P is duplicated, with one signature having manuscript corrections by Hughes, corrections which were transferred into the final text. The sheets, without being marked with Hughes’s ownership, passed by descent to his daughter Frieda Hughes, and were auctioned at Bonhams among other Hughes family items in 2018.
The book was delivered to me in June and in July I sent it out to have a custom box made for it. I really adore having this, especially with the few hand-corrected typesetting mistakes.

And now for the box!

I needed a box for this as the signatures were unbound. This one I wanted in orange to kind of match the first Faber edition. It is a different color orange, but I'm ok with that. This box is stunning and it is not temporary.

All links accessed: 23 July 2018.


Eva Stenskar said...

No, definitely not temporary! Congratulations on your purchase, Peter.

rdalpay said...

Oh. That is absolutely beautiful. Thank you for taking such good care of it.

Annika J Lindskog said...


A Piece of Plathery said...

How gorgeous, Peter!

Peter K Steinberg said...

Thank you Eva, Rebecca, Annika and Plathery for your comments! It's a very special book as I'm sure you all can well imagine! Have a super day! ~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.
  • 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.
  • Plath, Sylvia, and Peter K. Steinberg and Karen V. Kukil (eds.). The Letters of Sylvia Plath, Volume 2, 1956-1963. London: Faber, 2018.
  • 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.