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Review: Keith Sagar and Stephen Tabor: Ted Hughes: A Bibliography 1946 — 1995.

Publication Details:

Ted Hughes: A Bibliography 1946-1995.
London & New York, Mansell 1998,
ISBN: 0-7201-2337-2

 

In their new bibliography compilers Keith Sagar and Stephen Tabor document nearly fifty years of Ted Hughes's creative output.

The book is »intended for bibliophiles, collectors, dealers, as well as for critics, students and readers; but my own interest is largely in the needs of the latter« Keith Sagar writes in the introduction [viii]. Keeping true to that intention, the compilers have largely expanded their first edition of A Bibliography (1983) »extending the record up to the end of 1995« adding new sections and »correct[ing] some of the mistakes and omissions in the first edition [...]« [xi]. The result: some 400 pages of meticulously described publications, and an index of nearly 70 pages complete with cross-references.

The range of material listed includes original publications by Hughes (in books, pamphlets, broadsides, etc.), his contributions to all kinds of publications (editorial or otherwise), interviews and comments, broadcasts, recordings, settings and more. There is a section dedicated exclusively to translations of Hughes's material, and the compilers even list miscellany as record sleeves and odd quotes on book covers.

Particularly useful for students and scholars is an updated list of publications about Hughes and his work, identifying reprints and even threading arguments in newspapers and magazines that went over several issues. Moreover, the record is by no means limited to English or American publications but decidedly includes a wealth of international material.

New is the inclusion of a section on manuscripts (6 pages), of which »[t]here are now enough in university libraries to enable the serious study of them to begin« writes Sagar [ix]. Together with the material acquired by Emory University, Atlanta, an inventory of which should in the near future become available, the 18 collections described can be regarded as a foundation for a major field of future studies on Ted Hughes, and they are therefore of chief scholarly interest.

Section A, »Books, pamphlets and broadsides by Ted Hughes« (nearly 200 pages) does not only provide lengthy descriptions of items (incl. excerpts from letters, publishers files and other material) or of the publication history of single poems and whole volumes, but also lists reviews of all major publications. In the section dealing with material published on Hughes, items which include original material or quote at length from unpublished letters, carry a note saying so.

Where necessary, references to closely related items are included in the sections themselves while the index provides full cross-references, allowing the reader to follow development of single pieces as well as of whole volumes. The detailed descriptions in particular allow for re-constructions of the publication history of single works, for tracing the evolution of volumes like Crow or even for piecing together extensive lists of poems from limited editions, like A Primer of Birds, which have subsequently been published in collections.

Even readers well acquainted with Ted Hughes's writings are bound to make exciting finds when reading the book closely. And for those looking for points of entry into the work, the bibliography provides an essential guide to available resources.

With a listed price of 90.00 (some on-line stores offer discounts of roughly 20) Ted Hughes: A Bibliography may not be suited for everyone's pocket. However, the meticulous research of the compilers and the resulting completeness of the listings make the book indispensable for libraries and researchers, rendering the money well spent.

Claas Kazzer

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