PLATH, SYLVIA A Winter Ship. Edinburgh: Tragara Press, 1960. First edition of Plaths first separately published work, initialed by ...
Edinburgh: Tragara Press, 1960. First edition of Plath's first separately published work, initialed by Plath ("sph") in ink beneath the printed poem and further inscribed "A little winter poem for you about a ship Ted & I saw at T-Wharf in Boston- With love, Sylvia." 8 1/2 x 5 3/8 inches (21.5 x 13.5 cm); finely printed on laid-paper with deckle edge, 2 pp. on one folded sheet, title set within a decorative border, verso blank. Horizontal fold, else fine.
Provenance: Plath to her Winthrop, Massachusetts childhood friend Ruth Geissler, the recent donor of twelve letters from Plath to her mother to Smith College.
A very scarce inscribed copy of Sylvia Plath's first separately published work, printed in an edition of approximately sixty copies only. In 1958, Plath and husband Ted Hughes were living in Boston where, according to the present inscription, she found motivation for this poem on the waterfront. By the time of its publication in 1960, Plath and Hughes were living in London. In a letter dated dated June 11th of that year, Plath wrote the following to Tragara Press publisher, Alan Anderson: "I am writing on my own behalf to say how delighted my husband and I were with the proofs of 'A Winter Ship'. I'm sending back the one we like best, with the border round it. We thought we'd like the date, place and press in upright letters, as on the other proof, and my name deleted - as I'll write that on the inside myself, with Christmas greeting too. Would four dozen copies be too much of a burden for you?"
A Winter Ship is highly regarded among Plath's Boston poems, noted for its spontaneous depiction of the icy wharf in winter, such as the "All around us the water slips/And gossips in its loose vernacular/Ferrying the smells of dead cod and tar ... Even our shadows are blue with cold." A contemporary review after her February 1963 suicide by the literary critic and biographer Ian Hamilton described "the excellent A Winter Ship, in which the experience absorbs and vitalizes the range of her curiosities." This fugitive work is very rare in commerce: we trace just one uninscribed copy sold at auction, and just two uninscribed copies listed with the trade. Tabor, Sylvia Plath: an Analytical Bibliography, A1. For the Hamilton quote see Sylvia Plath: The Critical Heritage, p. 50.
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