• 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 166

    POE, Edgar Allan. The Raven and Other Poems. New York: Wiley and Putnam 1845.

    Price Realised  


    POE, Edgar Allan. The Raven and Other Poems. New York: Wiley and Putnam 1845.

    8o. (Some very slight foxing affecting a very few leaves.) Original printed tan wrappers (slight splitting to upper joint near head and foot). Provenance: Seven Gables Bookshop, 30th Anniversary Catalogue (1976), item 152.

    FIRST EDITION, FIRST ISSUE (in wrappers, with the New York imprint, and bound without Tales), 12 pages of publisher's advertisements at end. AN EXCEPTIONAL COPY AND ARGUABLY ONE OF THE FINEST RECORDED COPIES of "the most important volume of poetry that had been issued up until that time in America" (Hervey Allen, Israfel: The Life and Times of Edgar Allan Poe, New York, 1926, vol. 2, p. 667). The Raven and Other Poems was published in November 1845 in an edition of some 750 copies; it was dedicated to Elizabeth Barrett Browning and contains 30 poems, including "The Raven," "Eulalia," "Tamerlane," "Al Aaraff," and "To Helen," etc. The title poem was first printed in the American Review for January 1845; it ("The Raven") "made Poe's name known both in America and England, and brought him an immortality that by no other means could he have attained... [and it] gave him fame as a poet such as no other American has received" (John W. Robertson, A Bibliography of the Writings of... Poe, San Francisco, 1934, vol. 2, pp. 224-225).

    "The Raven" was an immediate success, appealing to both the popular and critical taste of its day, and readers found themselves captivated by the sensational and haunting cry of "Nevermore." Within a month of its first appearance it was reprinted at least ten times. The poem tells the tale of a student, desolated by the death of his beloved Lenore, visited on a stormy "bleak December" night by an "ominous bird." The pulsating repetitions throughout the poem, not only reveal the student's obsession with his loss and his struggle to keep sane, but they also give the reader the same unrelenting recurrence which the student himself experiences. It reflected Poe's own need to remember--his mother Eliza's death, his brother William Henry Leonard's death, his wife's progressive illness. At the end of the poem the student chases the bird from off his door, at the end of the poem the ominous bird remains on the bust of Pallas, and "still is sitting, still is sitting"--as he will always, so in recollection the dead in some form endure--the Raven is a link to the past. Poe explained the emblematic meaning of the bird as a "Mournful and Never-ending Remembrance." However painful it was to remember the loss of loved ones, it is still more painful to give them up. Poe's fame rose with that of "The Raven," and his name became synonymous with the poem. He gave readings of it on numerous occasions, and even considered a trip to England to read the poem before Queen Victoria, and presenting her a sumptuously bound copy. A SUPERB UNSOPHISTICATED COPY. BAL 16147; Grolier English 16; Grolier American 56; Heartman & Canny, pp. 97-108.

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