Personal Effects of Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes at Bonhams Book Sale

Fine Books and Manuscripts including Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes
The Property of Frieda Hughes
21 Mar 2018
London, Knightsbridge

Books and personal effects of two of the greatest poets of the 20th century, Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes, are to be offered for sale at Bonhams Fine Books and Manuscripts sale in London on 21 March 2018. The collection, Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes; The Property of Frieda Hughes, is being sold by the poets' daughter, Frieda Hughes, and shines a light on her parents' exceptionally close working relationship.
Among the highlights are:

• Sylvia Plath's own copy of The Bell Jar, her only novel, published under the pseudonym Victoria Lucas in January 1963, two months before her death. It is inscribed and dated "Sylvia Plath/23 Fitzroy Road/London NW1/Christmas 1962" and is estimated at £60,000-80,000. Plath and her two children, Frieda and Nicholas, had moved to London from the family home in Devon following her split from her husband, Ted Hughes.

• Plath's copy of the "uncorrected proof" of The Bell Jar, with her manuscript corrections, inscribed "Sylvia Plath/Court Green/North Tawton/Devonshire" on the first page, estimated at £50,000-70,000. Plath has made approximately seventy textual corrections to this copy, including spellings and the addition of words. She signed the book with the address of her Devon home, where she worked on the proofs prior to her final break with Hughes.

• Sylvia Plath's final typewriter - "Hermes 3000" estimated at £40,000-60,000. It was purchased by Plath in Boston in 1959, and was used by her to write The Bell Jar in spring-summer 1961. 

• An important pen and ink portrait of Ted Hughes by Sylvia Plath, drawn shortly after their marriage in July 1956, probably during their honeymoon. In October 1956, Plath wrote to her mother about the sketches saying, "every drawing has in my mind and heart a beautiful association of our sitting together in the hot sun, Ted reading, writing poems, or just talking with me... the sketches are very important to me...". The portrait is estimated at £20,000-30,000.

• The dedication copy of Hughes' first book of poetry, The Hawk in The Rain (1957) inscribed to Plath - "Written [To Sylvia, printed] and now presented to her with all my love." Plath was instrumental in the genesis of the book, and launching of Hughes' career. In a letter to her mother Plath wrote, "I am more happy than if it was my book published! I have worked so closely on these poems of Ted's and typed them so many countless times through revision after revision that I feel ecstatic about it all." It is estimated at £10,000-15,000.

• The first American edition of The Hawk in the Rain bearing Hughes inscription "because the book belongs to you just as surely as all my love does." It is estimated at £8,000-12,000.

• A first edition of Ariel, the book of Plath's poems edited by Hughes after his wife's death and on which her reputation rests. Frieda Hughes has written that her father had, "honoured my mother's work and her memory by publishing Ariel... He, perhaps more than anyone, recognised and acknowledged her talent as extraordinary. Without Ariel, my mother's literary genius might have gone unremarked for ever." It is estimated at £2,000-3,000.

Bonhams Senior Book specialist, Luke Batterham said, "This fascinating collection provides a riveting insight into the warmth and mutual support of the Hughes-Plath creative relationship, especially in the early years of their marriage.

"The deeply personal inscriptions to Plath in first editions of Hughes' breakthrough works The Hawk in the Rain, and its successor Lupercal, show how much he appreciated and acknowledged his wife's help.

"A tender and important pen and ink drawing of Hughes by Plath drawn shortly after their marriage while the couple were on honeymoon in Spain, was commemorated years later in Hughes' last work Birthday Letters.

"And, of course, Ariel, the poetry with which Plath is most closely identified, owes its existence largely to Hughes who recognised the quality of the work and arranged for its publication."


Sylvia Plath (1932-1963) was an American poet and novelist. Educated in Boston and at the University of Cambridge, she married British post Ted Hughes in 1956. Best known for her published poetry collections Ariel and The Colossus and other Poems, and her novel The Bell Jar, her confessional style of writing has proved enduringly influential. Sylvia Plath committed suicide in 1963, having suffered from clinical depression for most of her adult life.

Ted Hughes (1930-1998) was a British poet and children's writer. Born and raised in Yorkshire, much of early poetry reflects the landscape and dialect of his upbringing. His later work fused concerns for nature and the environment with explorations of myth and the British bardic traditions. Among his best known works are, The Hawk in the Rain (1957), Crow: From the Life and Songs of the Crow (1970), and Birthday Letters (1998). He was married to Sylvia Plath from 1956- 1963, though the marriage had broken down by the time of her death. He was appointed Poet Laureate in 1984.


For further information and images call Pippa MacNeil on +44 (0) 20 7468 2210, or email or

  1. Luke Batterham
    Montpelier Street
    London, United Kingdom SW7 1HH
    Work +44 20 7393 3828
    FaxFax: +44 20 7393 3879

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