We all know how things once owned by celebrities can sell for many times their otherwise humble value, but in the case of the recipe cards that once belonged to Sylvia Plath the final auction price far exceeded the estimated price. The set of notecards was neatly typed out, though many did have spills from cooking and some handwritten notes about the dishes. The cards were auctioned in July of 2021 through Sotheby’s.
Plath today is known to many as one of the most hauntingly precise poets of the 20th century. But, in her lifetime many people had no idea who she was. Plath came from an academic household and at only age 18 had her first big literary win when Seventeen magazine published her short story, “And Summer Will Not Come Again.”
From then on her life was increasingly focused on writing and she married fellow writer, Ted Hughes, in 1956 after having studied literature at Smith College and at Cambridge University. The unhappy union with Hughes produced two children, but left Plath with conflicted feelings.
While she had suffered from depression on and off since her adolescence, Plath’s mental health took a turn for the worse after she and Hughes separated in 1962. She took her own life by suicide in 1963 at the age of only 30 despite a blossoming writing career that included The Bell Jar and The Colossus and Other Poems.
Her name was well known in literary circles and she even garnered some incredible praise from Joyce Carol Oates, albeit posthumously. Since her death many volumes have been released under name, including children’s books and her journals and letters. Her cult following has made her an adored author, if somewhat limited in scope. It is perhaps because of her tragic life that her recipe cards went on to sell for such a high price at auction.
The 33 cards were auctioned along with a carved wooden rolling pin and they were given a pre-auction estimate of £800-1200£ ($1,113-$1,669 US). However, once the bidding was ended the final price paid for this grouping of items was £20,160 ($28,056 US).
The recipes and rolling pin were sold as one of 50 lots from the auction, Your Own Sylvia: Sylvia Plath’s letters to Ted Hughes, which included letters written between the two as well as family photo albums and the gold wedding rings for the “hurried, impulsive, and secret” wedding that took place after the pair had only known each other for 4 months. The items were put up for sale by Frieda Hughes, the oldest child of Sylvia and Ted, herself an author.SKM: below-content placeholder