PLATH, Sylvia (1932-1963). The Colossus and Other Poems. London: William Heinemann, 1960.
8o. Original green cloth, gilt-lettered on spine (slightest wear at ends of spine); printed dust jacket (lightly soiled, spine lightly faded). Provenance: Wilbury Crockett, Plath's high school teacher (presentation inscription).
FIRST EDITION OF PLATH'S FIRST COMMERCIALLY PUBLISHED BOOK. A VERY FINE ASSOCIATION COPY, INSCRIBED BY PLATH TO HER HIGH-SCHOOL TEACHER, WILBURY CROCKETT on the front free endpaper: "For Mr. Crockett--In whose classroom and wisdom these poems have root--from Sylvia London: October 27, 1960." Wilbury Crockett was Plath's English teacher at the Bradford High School and Plath makes numerous references to him in her journals and letters as her first real literary influence. Crockett remained close to Plath until her suicide in 1963. The Colossus was the only work Plath published under her own name in her lifetime, but it became one of the most influential first books of poetry of the post-war period. Plath's novel, The Bell Jar, was published under the pseudonym "Victoria Lukas."
As the present copy was inscribed on the day of her 28th birthday, it most likely is one of the 10 "advance" copies Heinemann supplied to Plath as a consolation for the fact that the book was not ready by that date, as originally promised. Of the ten copies Plath distributed, four have been located: the present; the copy she sent to her mother; the copy she sent to her brother; and the copy that either she or Heinemann deposited at the British Library (not inscribed). Ted Hughes, Plath's husband and the dedicatee, received an inscribed copy, presumably from the advance batch.
PLATH PRESENTATIONS ARE EXCEEDINGLY SCARCE. In addition to the advance copies detailed above, three other presentation copies of The Colossus are recorded: the first inscribed to the poet W.S. Merwin and his wife; the second inscribed to Charles Monteith, T.S. Eliot's successor as a poetry editor at Faber and Ted Hughes's publisher; and the third inscribed to Ted Hughes's parents, sold at Christie's New York, 9 December 1998, lot 46. These seven inscribed copies constitute all of the Plath presentations presently recorded.
PLATH, Sylvia. Autograph letter signed ("Sylvia") in a printed Christmas card, to Wilbury Crockett, [London, 1960?]. 1½ pages, oblong narrow 8o, totalling nearly 250 words.
A LETTER WITH VERY FINE LITERARY CONTENT. The card is referred to in the Wagner-Martin edition of Plath's correspondence, but it remains entirely unpublished. Plath notes that she is pleased to know that The Colossus has reached him. "...We are extremely happy in our small northern niche in London where Regents Park, Primrose Hill & The Zoo are our backyard, so to speak, & long for a house in an adjoining street. We glut ourselves on the cheap play tickets, foreign films, galleries and all the best fare, while living like anonymous creatures, Ted studiously avoiding the requests for public appearances that find their way to us. We had a wonderful dinner with T.S. Eliot (who is an editor at Ted's publishing house), his charming Yorkshire wife & Mr and Mrs. Stephen Spender at the Eliot's home here. I was thrilled..." (2)