• The William E. Self Library, I auction at Christies

    Sale 2153

    The William E. Self Library, Important English and American Literature

    4 December 2009, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 155

    POE, Edgar Allan. Tamerlane and Other Poems. Boston: Calvin F.S. Thomas, 1827.

    Price Realised  

    Estimate

    POE, Edgar Allan. Tamerlane and Other Poems. Boston: Calvin F.S. Thomas, 1827.

    12o (162 x 107 mm). Pages iv [5]-40. Printed in black on wove paper. (Some staining and foxing, approximately six letters on p. [5] over-inked in the press.) ORIGINAL PRINTED TAN WRAPPERS, with title and imprint on the front, and printer's advertisement on the rear wrapper, each within a typographic border (stained with some fraying at edges, spine a bit worn, outer and lower margins of wrappers and text leaves each notched with a v-shaped cut, not affecting text); dark red morocco pull-off case, by Rivière & Son. AN ENTIRELY UNSOPHISTICATED COPY.

    PROVENANCE:

    1. Martha Ann Flint, the earliest known owner (early signature in ink on the inside of the front wrapper); 2. Sigurd Neandross (1871-1958), Ridgefield, NJ, sculptor, artist, and bookman (possibly purchased in New York in 1926 or 1927), sold to: 3. Dr. A. S. W. Rosenbach (1876-1952), Philadelphia and New York, in February 1927, for $15,000 (he paid in four installments, beginning 11 February 1927). He sold it to: 4. Mrs. George Blumenthal, Paris, around 1927, for $28,500; 5. consigned by the Blumenthals to A. S. W. Rosenbach for sale (April 1931), but no purchasers came forward; 6. Gabriel Wells, New York (Wells purchased the Blumenthal's entire Poe collection in 1933, for $50,000); 7. H. Bradley Martin (1906-1988) (Martin bought Wells' entire Poe collection in 1935-1940); 8. William Self (purchased at the auction of the collection of H. Bradley Martin, Sotheby's, New York, 30 January 1990, lot 2191).


    FIRST EDITION OF POE'S LEGENDARY FIRST BOOK: THE MOST CELEBRATED RARITY IN AMERICAN LITERATURE. ONE OF ONLY TWELVE COPIES KNOWN, AND ONLY ONE OF TWO IN PRIVATE HANDS.

    Following Poe's break with his foster family, the Allans, he moved to the city of his birth Boston to find work in 1827. "For a month or two Edgar seems to have supported himself in Boston by working in a merchandise house, and after that in the office of a small newspaper. He may have been writing, too, and apparently took with him the manuscript of some earlier works when he left Richmond at the end of March" (Silverman, p. 38). Poe turned over his manuscripts to an 18-year old printer named Calvin F. S. Thomas, whose family may have been known by Poe's birth parents. Poe used his own money to pay Thomas, who had previously only printed labels, flyers, and other small printing jobs. The 40-page collection Tamerlane and Other Poems, the only known book printed by Thomas, was published anonymously with the only authorship credited to "A Bostonian." Poe was 18 years old when the collection was released in July 1827 and only 50 copies are thought to have been printed. His name, later typically listed as "Edgar A. Poe", was not published with his work until his second collection of poems, Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane, and Minor Poems, appeared in late 1829. Poe may have chosen not to give his name so that his foster-father John Allan would not know where he was. His choice to embrace his Bostonian heritage may have been an attempt to distance himself from the Allan family in Richmond. "But in distancing himself from the Allans he made his way back to Eliza Poe, who on the back of her watercolor painting had instructed him to 'ever love Boston, the place of his birth, and where his mother found her best, and most sympathetic friends" (Silverman, p. 38).

    The poems were largely inspired by Lord Byron, including the long title poem "Tamerlane", which depicts a historical conqueror who laments the loss of his first romance. Like much of Poe's future work, the poems in Tamerlane and Other Poems include themes of love, death, and pride. In his somewhat apologetic introduction to the volume Poe said the poems were not intended to ever be published and "why they are now published concerns no one" but the author. He claimed, however, that the majority of the poems were written between 1820 and 1821, "when the author had not completed his fourteenth year," though this was likely an exaggeration. Poe used the low circulation of this collection to attract readers later in his career, suggesting the 1827 poetry book had been "suppressed through circumstances of a private nature" (Silverman, p. 55).

    Tamerlane and Other Poems was virtually ignored and received no significant critical attention upon its publication. It was listed in the United States Review and Literary Gazette for August 1827 as a recent publication, and it was similarly noted in the North American Review for October 1827. It appeared in Samuel Kettell's, "Catalogue of American Poetry," in Specimens of American Poetry (Boston, 1829--see lot 156). In fact, when Poe published Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane and Minor Poems in 1829, his claims of an earlier edition were considered untrue. No copy was known until 1876, when one was found in the library of the British Museum, where it had been sent as part of a miscellaneous collection of American books in 1860 purchased from Henry Stevens of Vermont. A second copy was not found until 1890, in Boston.
    The present copy was first discovered in 1926 or 1927, in the New York area , and is one of only a few copies that have been discovered outside of New England. It is one of a group of five or so copies which surfaced as a result of the popular article by Vincent Starrett, "Have You a Tamerlane in Your Attic," published in the Saturday Evening Post in 1925; and one of only seven surviving copies with both wrappers preserved (see census below).

    According to the Sotheby's description of this copy in the catalogue for the H. Bradley Martin auction: "This is also the only copy known that offers any hint about the publishing history of the book: For this copy was deliberately notched in the outer and lower margins at an early date, and very possibly this was done in order to mark the book as a remainder, not to be returned." we have been unable to substantiate this.


    EXHIBITED:

    Yale University Library, New Haven: "'Quoth the Raven': An Exhibition...from the Collections of H. Bradley Martin and Colonel Richard Gimbel," 1959, no. 9. Yale University Library Gazette 33, 1958-1959, page 141.

    The Pierpont Morgan Library, New York: "Collectors' Choice: Books and Manuscripts Collected by Jacqueline and Henry Bradley Martin," 1987-1988.


    REFERENCES:

    BAL 16123; Cannon 183-86, his Census, no. 5; Heartman & Canny (1940), pp. 13-16, their census, no [6]; Heartman & Canny (1943), pp. 13-18, their census, no. [7]; Heartman & Rede, pp. 7-9, their census, no. [9]; Mabbott (1941), pp. xlii-xliv; NYPL/Gordon 473-44; Wolf & Fleming, pp. 271-72, 361 and 381; Yale/Gimbel 9.


    CENSUS OF COPIES:

    1. British Library, London. Rebound; wrappers lost.
    2. Henry E. Huntington Library and Art Gallery, San Marino, California. Rebound, but preserving original wrappers.
    3. Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, University of Texas, Austin Texas. Wrappers.
    4. William Andrews Clark Memorial Library, University of California. Wrappers lost.
    5. Albert A. Berg Collections, New York Public Library, New York. Young-Berg copy. Wrappers.
    6. Lilly Library, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana. Wrappers. 7. Present copy. William Self copy. Wrappers.
    8*. Alderman Library, University of Virginia, Charlottesville. Wrappers. Stolen about 1974, and now lost.
    9. Albert A. Berg Collection, New York Public Library, New York. Howe-Berg copy. Wrappers lost.
    10. Poe Foundation, Free Library of Philadelphia, Philadelphia. Lower wrapper lost, upper wrapper imperfect.
    11. Joseph Regenstein Library, University of Chicago. Wrappers.
    12. Susan Jaffe Tane. Wrappers.


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