Auctions | March 22, 2018

Plath's Personal Copy of "The Bell Jar" is Top Lot at Bonhams

 The Bell Jar First Edition Signed and Dated 1962 copy.jpgSylvia Plath’s own signed, pre-publication copy of The Bell Jar was top lot at the Bonhams Fine Books and Manuscripts Sale today, 21 March, realised £87,500. The sale, which included the Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes collection, achieved a total of £1,572,325 with an impressive 87% sold by lot and 90% sold by value.

The book is inscribed and dated "Sylvia Plath/23 Fitzroy Road/London NW1/Christmas 1962". A second copy of the novel - an uncorrected proof - sold for £75,000. The typewriter on which she wrote The Bell Jar, her only published novel, sold for £32,500.

Works by Ted Hughes also performed well in the sale. The first American edition of The Hawk in the Rain bearing his inscription to Plath “because the book belongs to you just as surely as all my love does,” sold for £28,750 after having been estimated at £10,000 - 15,000 and a first edition of Lupercal, an author’s presentation copy also inscribed by Hughes to Plath realized £15,625.

Further highlights of the collection included:

  • Sylvia Plath’s Roget’s thesaurus, with upwards of 1000 words underlined (£13,750)
  • A first edition of Sylvia Plath’s Ariel, a presentation copy from Ted Hughes to his Parents, inscribed ‘To Mam & Dad with love Ted.’ (£11,250)
  • Autograph manuscripts of 23 bird poems in one volume, A Bundle of Birds, inscribed by Hughes 'to Olwyn' (£11,875)

Bonhams Head of Fine Books and Manuscripts, Matthew Haley, commented: 'This collection provides a unique insight into the depth of the Hughes-Plath creative relationship, especially in the early years of their marriage. The high prices achieved for lots such as Plath's personal copy of The Bell Jar and the books bearing intimate inscriptions between the pair are testament to the longstanding impact that both writers had on the world of literature.'