Sylvia Plath’s Colossus sets £94,500 auction record for the author

It surpassed the previous record of £87,500 for her copy of The Bell Jar in 2018.

Sylvia Plath

It surpassed the previous record of £87,500 for her copy of The Bell Jar in 2018.


A copy of the first edition of Sylvia Plath’s first collection, The Colossus and Other Poems (1960) set an auction record for the author yesterday. The work sold for a combined £94,500, exceeding the pre-sale estimate of £20,000- 30,000.

Sold to a UK private collector, the book is especially rare for its personal inscription by the American poet and novelist addressed to the book’s dedicatee, her husband Ted Hughes on her birthday: “October 27th, 1960 | A birthday book dedicated | to the source of my birthdays | With love ~ | Sylvia”.

The Colossus Sylvia Plath record auction Sotheby's

The Colossus and Other Poems set a record for the poet and author Plath

The Colossus and Other Poems was published in an edition of 500 copies and was the only book of poetry published by the author in her lifetime. Plath had requested for the book to be published on her birthday but was told by Heinemann that this could only take place on Mondays, so the book was only published four days after this copy was inscribed.

This copy was one of the author’s advance copies, which fortunately had arrived for her birthday. Copies gifted to her mother, Ted’s sister Olwyn, the poet Bill Merwin and Jack Sweeney, the curator of the Woodberry Poetry Room in Boston, were also inscribed on this same day, but this is undoubtedly the copy with the deepest personal resonance.

Gabriel Heaton, Director and Specialist in Sotheby’s Books and Manuscripts Department, said: “It has been a privilege to handle this exceptionally rare and personal work by Plath. This result marks a brilliant culmination of our Books, Manuscripts and Music from Medieval to Modern sale that brought together both the work of Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath among many other highlights.

“Plath was one of the greatest poets of her generation and her poetry has touched countless lives; we are delighted that her work continues to attract the attention and appreciation that she didn’t receive in her lifetime.”


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