The Bell Jar proof among items in Sylvia Plath auction

The Bell Jar proof among items in Sylvia Plath auction

A proof of Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar was sold for £87,500 and her typewriter went for £32,500 in an auction of items sold at Bonhams by her daughter on Wednesday (21st March).

Put up for sale by Frieda Hughes, Plath’s only surviving child from her marriage to Ted Hughes, the lots included a proof of Plath’s novel, The Bell Jar; her typewriter; and furniture and possessions that featured in both writers’ poetry, according to the Times.

The green Hermes 3000 typewriter that Plath used to write The Bell Jar was expected to be sold for £60,000 but went for around half the price at £32,500, while her mahogany armchair on which Frieda was photographed as a child was estimated at £1,500, which is 10 times its value as a piece of furniture. An annotated proof copy with corrections and added words was expected to fetch £70,000.

The most valuable item in the collection was Plath’s copy of The Bell Jar valued at £80,000, which topped the sold list of items at £87,500. Published under the pseudonym Victoria Lucas in January 1963, a few weeks before Plath's death, the copy records Plath's change of address as she moved out of the family home in Devon and into a flat in north London when Hughes began a relationship with another woman.

Other items in the auction included clothes, photographs, a sketch of Hughes that Plath drew on their honeymoon in Spain, and a cookery book.

Frieda Hughes told The Times: “In identifying which items to sell, I realised that much of what I owned, redolent of my parents’ joint history, told a story — one item made sense of other items. It seemed that if I wished to sell some items, then others would have to go too, because presented together, they made up a snapshot of a mutual history, and so the idea of the auction was born.

“It will enable others to take on the preservation and enjoyment of things that I have loved to live with, but which I would like to find new homes for, while the decision is still mine to make.”

The auction was held at Bonhams in London on Wednesday (21st March).