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Sylvia Plath collection

Identifier: MRBC-MS-00045

Scope and Contents

The Sylvia Plath Collection contains writings by and about Sylvia Plath, including poems, journals, articles, and correspondence to and from Plath. The bulk of the collection is manuscript, printed, or published materials but also includes realia, and audio/visual materials. There are also personal and financial papers, photographs, artwork, and school papers. While the bulk of the collection is comprised of Sylvia Plath's writings, memorabilia , and reviews of her work, there are also materials concerning Aurelia Plath (Sylvia Plath's mother), Otto Plath (Sylvia Plath's father), Ted Hughes (Sylvia Plath's husband), Olwyn Hughes (Ted Hughes' sister), and Marcia Brown Stern (friend of Sylvia Plath). These additional series are largely comprised of materials relating to Sylvia Plath. The Ted Hughes materials contain some of his own writings and correspondence in addition to documents concerning his publication of Sylvia Plath's works.

Dates of Materials

  • Creation: approximately 1930-1998


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for use without restriction beyond the standard terms and conditions of Smith College Special Collections.

Conditions Governing Use

To the extent that they own copyright, the estate of Sylvia Plath has retained copyright in works owned by Smith College. Copyright in other items in this collection may be held by their respective creators. For reproductions of materials that are governed by fair use as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission to cite or publish is required. For those few instances beyond fair use, or which may regard materials in the collection not created by Sylvia Plath, researchers are responsible for determining who may hold materials' copyrights and obtaining approval from them. Researchers do not need anything further from Smith College Special Collections to move forward with their use.

Biographical / Historical

The American poet and novelist Sylvia Plath was born on 27 October 1932 in Boston, Massachusetts, to Otto and Aurelia Schober Plath. After graduating from Smith College in 1955, she attended Newnham College at Cambridge University on a Fulbright fellowship.

Plath married British poet Ted Hughes on 16 June 1956. The couple moved to Massachusetts after Plath graduated from Cambridge. Plath was an English instructor at Smith College from 1957 to 1958 while her husband taught English literature and creative writing at the University of Massachusetts at the Amherst campus before they moved to Boston to write for a year.

In 1959, Plath audited Robert Lowell's poetry writing course at Boston University where she met the poet Anne Sexton. After a ten-week stay at Yaddo, the artist's colony in Saratoga Springs, New York, the couple moved back to England in December.

Heinemann published Plath's first book, The Colossus: Poems, in London in 1960; The Bell Jar, Plath's thinly disguised autobiographical novel, was published by Heinemann three years later in 1963.

Plath died from suicide on 11 February 1963. Her Ariel poems were published posthumously by Faber and Faber in 1965, and her Collected Poems (1981) won the Pulitzer Prize in 1982.

Chronology of major events in Sylvia Plath's life, 1932-1963

October 27—Sylvia Plath born in Boston, Massachusetts, to Otto and Aurelia Schober Plath.
April 27—Warren Joseph Plath (Sylvia’s brother) is born.
The Plath family moves from Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts, to Winthrop, Massachusetts, to be close to Aurelia Plath’s parents.
November 5—Otto Plath dies from complications of diabetes.
Aurelia and her children and parents move to Wellesley, Massachusetts.
September—Sylvia enters Phillips Junior High School.
June—Sylvia graduates from Phillips Junior High School.
September—Sylvia enters Gamaliel Bradford High School.
June—Sylvia graduates from Gamaliel Bradford High School.
September—Sylvia enters Smith College and lives in Haven House (September 1950-June 1952) and Lawrence House (September 1952-June 1955).
June—Sylvia spends the summer in New York as guest editor of Mademoiselle.
August 24—Sylvia attempts to commit suicide by taking an overdose of sleeping pills.
October—Sylvia moves to McLean Hospital, a private psychiatric facility in Belmont, Massachusetts.
February—Sylvia returns to Smith College.
May—Sylvia is awarded a Fulbright fellowship to Newnham College, Cambridge.
June 6—Sylvia graduates summa cum laude from Smith College with an honors degree in English.
October—Sylvia enrolls at Newnham College, Cambridge. She lives at Whitstead, a house for foreign students.
February 25—Sylvia meets Ted Hughes.
June 16—Ted and Sylvia are married at the Church of St. George the Martyr, London.
June-August—Ted and Sylvia travel through Spain.
September—Sylvia and Ted visit the Hughes family in Yorkshire.
October—Sylvia returns to Cambridge. Ted returns to London.
December—Ted and Sylvia move to 55 Eltisley Avenue, Cambridge.
June—Sylvia completes her B.A. degree at Cambridge.
June—Sylvia and Ted sail to New York. They visit Wellesley and spend the summer on Cape Cod.
September—Sylvia begins teaching English at Smith College. She and Ted live at 337 Elm Street in Northampton, Massachusetts.
September—Sylvia and Ted move to an apartment at 9 Willow Street in Boston, Massachusetts. Sylvia works part-time as a secretary at Massachusetts General Hospital’s adult psychiatric clinic.
Spring—Sylvia works at Harvard University in the Sanskrit and Indian Studies department and audits Robert Lowell’s writing of poetry course (English 306) at Boston University.
Summer—Sylvia and Ted drive across Canada and the United States to visit Sylvia’s aunt Frieda Plath Heinrichs and her husband Walter J. Henrichs in California.
September-November—Sylvia and Ted are guests at Yaddo, an artists’ colony in Saratoga Springs, New York.
December—Sylvia and Ted move back to England.
Sylvia and Ted rent an apartment at 3 Chalcot Square in London.
April 1—Sylvia gives birth to a daughter, Frieda Rebecca Hughes.
October 31 —The Colossus and Other Poems is published in London.
August—Sylvia and Ted move to Court Green, their home in North Tawton, Devonshire.
January 17—Sylvia gives birth to a son, Nicholas Farrar Hughes.
October—Sylvia and Ted separate.
December—Sylvia and the children move to 23 Fitzroy Road, London.
January 14—The Bell Jar is published in London under the pseudonym Victoria Lucas.
February 11—Sylvia dies from suicide in her home in London.


36.442 linear feet (62 containers)

0.555 Gigabytes (4 photographs)

Language of Materials



The Sylvia Plath Collection contains writings by and about the American poet, novelist, and Smith College graduate, including poems, journals, articles, and correspondence to and from Plath. The bulk of the collection is manuscript, printed, or published materials but also includes realia, and audio/visual materials.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

As a preservation measure, researchers must use digital copies of audiovisual materials in this collection. Please consult with Special Collections staff to request the creation of and access to digital copies.

Other Finding Aids

A legacy finding aid with more detailed information about this collection is available in this downloadable document: finding aid to the Sylvia Plath collection.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The bulk of the collection was purchased from the Estate of Sylvia Plath in 1981. Aurelia Plath, Sylvia’s mother, donated additional material in 1983. The rest of the collection was donated or sold to Smith College by friends of Sylvia Plath, including Ann Davidow Goodman, Elinor Friedman Klein, Enid Epstein Mark, and Marcia Brown Stern, and by booksellers. Whenever the provenance of particular items are known, this is noted in the description.

Related Materials

While the Sylvia Plath Collection is the largest collection of Plath materials at Smith College, there are other collections for researchers to consult at Smith and elsewhere such as the collections listed below.

Other resources at Smith relating to Sylvia Plath can be found in the Smith College Archives Sylvia Plath papers (CA-MS-00142).

Printed books by and about Sylvia Plath are cataloged and accessible through the Five-College online catalog. Books from Plath's personal library are cataloged with call numbers that start with 825 P696L.

Other major collections are held at the Lilly Library at Indiana University and Emory University Special Collections holds the Ted Hughes Papers.

Processing Information

This collection has been curated and processed by multiple members of the staff of the Smith College rare books collection, beginning with Ruth Mortimer, and including Barbara Blumethal and Karen V. Kukil.

Series 1-10 of the original finding aid were parsed into standard fields and entered into ArchivesSpace by Amanda MacLeod in April and May 2018.

Finding aid for the Sylvia Plath collection
Karen V. Kukil
December 2006-2018
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • June 2013-May 2014: Revisions and additions by Barbara B. Blumenthal
  • 2016/03/29: Corrections made to electronic file
  • 2018/04-2018/05: Finding aid entered into ArchivesSpace by Amanda MacLeod
  • 2022-11-21: Added Accession 2021-M-0012

Repository Details

Part of the Mortimer Rare Book Collection Repository

Neilson Library
7 Neilson Drive
Northampton MA 01063