A Rare Proof Copy Of Sylvia Plath's 'The Bell Jar' Found, And It's Going To Be Auctioned Off, So Save Your Pennies (Or Millions)
Here's some Sylvia Plath news that isn't depressing — and is actually kind of swell. There’s a newly discovered and extremely rare proof copy of Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar, and it will be auctioned in London next month. So, if you're a big Plath fan, I guess you better start saving, and get thee to London.
The proof, which will be auctioned at Bonhams on June 24, belongs to a woman who blogs as Lucy WithaY. She writes that she bought the book as a college student in 1985 as a requirement. One day, 30 years later, Lucy remembered the copy and wondered if it was special. She wrote about it in her blog, saying, “For no reason, a few weeks ago whilst idly browsing eBay, I thought ‘I wonder if anyone else has one of those weird Bell Jar books for sale?’ and searched for it….Readers, I found out a couple of interesting things about my old book.”
Lucy quickly called up the auction house Bonhams and sent over her “jolly rare” copy. Which, y'know, was a good idea.
“It’s relatively unusual for things to come to us from people who don’t know what they’ve got,” Matthew Haley, the head of the book department at Bonhams, told The Guardian. “Mostly people do, and they’ve inherited them, or bought them deliberately. To end up with it by accident is rather fun.”
Haley estimates the proof copy is worth between $3,100 to $4,600. Lucy WithaY reports she'll spend the money on a trip to Japan with her husband.
For those of you in need of a Plath refresher, The Bell Jar is the highly autobiographical novel that details the author’s spiral into a rapacious depression that would hold her in its grasp for the rest of her life. It was published first in 1963 under the pseudonym Victoria Lucas, and again in 1966 under Plath’s real name, three years after her suicide.
The uncorrected proof that Lucy WithaY has dates back to 1962, one year before The Bell Jar’s release, and contains more than 70 differences that would later be edited out. For example, in the proof edition the protagonist is twice errantly referred to as Victoria Lucas. When a nurse approaches Esther Greenwood’s bed after Esther has tried to kill herself, the nurse calls her by Plath’s own pseudonymic name.
“And how are you feeling this morning, Miss Lucas?” The nurse asks. The narrative continues, “I … hate people to ask cheerfully how you are when they know you’re feeling like hell and expect you to say ‘Fine.’ ‘I feel lousy.’”
Man, could she write.