Remembering Seamus Heaney: Events and sales organised to commemorate poet’s anniversary

A reflective celebration is being held in Bellaghy while booksellers have organised dedicated collections

Seamus Heaney, considered to be the most significant poet in Irish literature after WB Yeats, will be remembered this week with a number of events and sales.

To commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Nobel laureate’s death, on August 30th, 2013, 10 poets have been asked to reflect on the influence Heaney has had on their writing and on poetry in general.

This weekend, at Seamus Heaney HomePlace in Bellaghy, Co Derry, the poets will read and reflect in “A Note that Pays You Back”, highlighting the value of poetry in society, as part of a wider celebration of Heaney’s life and works.

Elsewhere, De Búrca Rare Books in Blackrock has released its Heaney Collection of 25 works including first editions, signed limited editions and a signed manuscript.


Describing The Testament of Cresseid as “a real treasure” as it is limited to just 75 copies, the retelling of Robert Henryson’s poem has six large tipped-in colour illustrations by artist Hughie O’Donoghue. The rare copy is signed by Heaney and O’Donoghue (whose exhibition Erris Retrospect at Áras Inis Gluaire in Belmullet, Co Mayo, will finish on August 31st). It comes with a signed and numbered original etching by O’Donoghue, printed by Simon Marsh (€3,750).

Limited to 150 copies on vellum, Heaney’s Columcille the Scribe can be detached for mounting purposes, if required. Signed by Heaney, the translation of the late 11th/early 12th century Irish poem is listed at €2,500.

Ulysses Rare Books on Duke Street in Dublin has also a good collection relating to the poet.

“Heaney is always a mainstay with us as far as contemporary literature is concerned – and besides collectors – people like to buy first, signed and limited editions as gifts,” explains David Cunningham of the antiquarian bookshop.

In its catalogue is a first edition of Death of a Naturalist (1966), which was Heaney’s first major collection of poetry (€2,500). It also has a collection of three major early works, all first editions which are inscribed to Charles Monteith of Faber & Faber – in recognition of the publisher having faith to prepare and publish the poet’s first books.

Death of a Naturalist is inscribed for “Charles Monteith the best friend, guide and publisher I could have”, signed by Heaney on March 22nd, 1969. In Door into the Dark, the inscription reads, “To Charles Monteith, who helped to open the door, with gratitude and good wishes Seamus, 19th May, 1969″.

The third, also inscribed for the publisher and signed by Heaney, is Wintering Out. As these signed, first editions (in dust jackets), were his first three main poetry collections ever to be published, and with the touching inscriptions from Heaney, they are being sold together as a very rare set (€22,500).

An indication that works by Heaney are becoming increasingly sought after is the £5,120 (€5,988, including premiums) achieved for Eleven Poems at Bonhams’ sale in London on June 21st. It gained more than double its lower estimate of £2,000 (€2,339), while an autograph signed letter, with an inscribed photocopied typescript of Alphabets and other papers, achieved £2,167 (€2,534, including premium) in March this year, also through Bonham’s.

Elizabeth Birdthistle

Elizabeth Birdthistle

Elizabeth Birdthistle, a contributor to The Irish Times, writes about property, fine arts, antiques and collectables