Tuesday, 26 May 2015

I Spy

An overheard game of I Spy in the shop yesterday, between a boy of about 4 and his slightly older brother.

Younger boy:  I spy with my little eye....um......something that's .....um....begins with...BLUE!

Older boy:  Is it this?  (Holding up a small bag of Skittles, bright red in colour.)

Younger boy:  No.

Older boy:  Is it this?  (Holding up a caramel Freddo bar, definitely not blue.)

Younger boy:  No!

Older boy:  Is it this?  (Pointing at a bag of beef crisps.)

Younger boy:  (by now hugely excited) NO!

Older boy then wandered away, tiring of the sport.

Younger boy:  I'll help you!

Older boy:  Ok.

Younger boy:  It's somewhere in Space!

In other news:  Mr WithaY and I have bitten a large, expensive bullet and booked the holiday of a lifetime.  We are going to Japan next Spring.  This is a long-held wish, and we decided that if we wait until we can afford it, we'll never go.  So we went and booked it at the weekend, and now it's really happening.

The catalyst for the trip was this:

Forgive the dreadful quality picture, I stupidly scanned it, rather than just taking a photo, like a sensible person would.

I bought this book in 1985 in Winchester, as it was required reading for my degree, used it throughout the course, and it has lived quietly in one of the many WithaY bookcases ever since.

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.  Nothing on eBay, so I Googled it.

Readers, I found out a couple of interesting things about my old book.

1)  It's jolly rare.  According to a Sylvia Plath website - this one - there are only 8 copies known to exist. I don't know if that means mine is Number 9, or one of the existing 8.

2)  The last time one was sold in the UK, it went for quite a lot of money.

Well, what would you do?  I sat there for a few minutes, looking at the Bonhams photo of the cover of the book, which was almost exactly the same as mine, and then went in to Mr WithaY's study, where he sat researching Neolithic sporrans, or some such arcanery.

Me:  Look at this picture.

Mr W:  Oh yes.  A book.

Me:  Look how much it sold for.

Mr W:  Heavens!

Me:  Yes.  I've got one of those.

Mr W:  What?

Me:  I've got that same book. Upstairs.

I ran upstairs, located the book, ran (carefully - with my track record) back downstairs and showed Mr WithaY.  We both looked from my book to the Bonhams website, and back again.

Me:  I'm ringing Bonhams in the morning.

I rang Bonhams, where I spoke to a charming chap in their books department.  I told him that I had found their auction page about the Bell Jar uncorrected proof.

"Oh yes?" he said, politely.  I got the impression he was lounging negligently in a fine quality leather club chair, possibly smoking an untipped cigarette in an amber holder.

"Yes.  Well, the thing is, I've got one of those, and I'd like to sell it please."

In my head, he sat up abruptly at this point, dropping his cigarette onto the green leather of his desktop.*

Anyhoo, the upshot was, that he told me they had a sale coming up in June, and that if I could get the book to them for evaluation in the next day or two, they could include it, assuming it was what I thought it was.

I posted it to them that afternoon, they telephoned me the following morning to say it had arrived, and that they were happy to include it in the sale, and so, with much excitement, I waited for the sale catalogue to be published.

And here it is:   https://www.bonhams.com/auctions/22714/lot/289/


So, if there are any avid Sylvia Plath collectors who read this, or you know anyone who has loads of money and a suitably-shaped hole in their library, please tell them to bid.  It's funding my holiday to Japan, at least in part.

*Yes, yes, yes, I'm well aware he was probably doing nothing of the sort, but I don't get to London much these days, and it's all morphed into a Bertie Wooster/Mapp and Lucia fantasyland now in my imagination.


Peter K Steinberg said...

Good luck on the auction and eventually on the holiday. Your story is every book collector's dream. Thank you for sharing it!!


Mrs Jones said...

Wow! The Husband and I are pretty keen on visiting Japan - maybe I should rummage through our library to see what I can find. I know I've got some signed books (Spike Milligan, Al Shepherd [the first American in space], Julian Barnes and Melvyn Bragg) but I don't think I'd get much for them!

Josie said...

How exciting, so pleased for you!

Mrs Jones said...

I see you've also made it into The Guardian! http://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/may/28/the-bell-jar-proof-copy-found-sylvia-plath

David Bridger said...

How exciting! Congratulations!

(I'm here via the Guardian article.)

livesbythewoods said...

Peter, thank you, it is so exciting seeing the reaction to the book, given that I never thought it was anything more than an interesting curiosity. Thanks to your website, I learned how rare it is.

Mrs J, hello! If you want to go to Japan, I recommend you look at the Kuoni brochure, it has some superb trips. Might see you there!

Josie, thank you!

David, hello! I was utterly thrilled to see the Guardian article, and I'm delighted you popped in.