POE, Edgar Allan (1809-1849). [Cover title:] The Prose Romances of Edgar A. Poe. Uniform Serial Edition. No. 1; Containing, The Murders in the Rue Morgue, and the Man That Was Used Up. Philadelphia: Published by William H. Graham, 1843. 8o (231 x 147 mm). 40 pages, numbered -48. ORIGINAL PRINTED PALE TAN WRAPPERS (spine lacking and unprinted rear wrapper detached, wrappers a little soiled and spotted, an inch closed tear in blank lower margin of front wrapper, first page of text and a few other pages at rear foxed); tan half morocco folding case.
FIRST EDITION OF "THE MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE" -- THE FIRST DETECTIVE STORY: THE RECENTLY DISCOVERED FIFTEENTH KNOWN COPY AND THE ONLY COPY IN THE ORIGINAL PRINTED WRAPPERS IN PRIVATE HANDS (just three other copies with wrappers intact are in institutional libraries). Only three other copies of this legendary rarity -- termed "the most valuable volume of American fiction" (The Lilly Library, The First Hundred Years of Detective Fiction, 1841-1941, p.13) -- are still in private collections: one is in facsimile wrappers, another is in contemporary wrappers, and the third is bound up in a pamphlet volume. Of the eleven copies in institutional libraries, two are in the original wrappers, one is rebound with the wrappers intact, two have the printed front wrapper only, and the remaining six are lacking original wrappers. SINCE THE PRINTED FRONT WRAPPER SERVES AS A TITLE-PAGE for this slim and most elusive pamphlet, its presence (as on the present copy) is essential.
"Unsuccessful in his attempts to interest publishers in a collection of his tales, Poe hit upon the idea of publishing a story or two at a time in pamphlet form as a 'Uniform Serial Edition. Each number complete in itself. Price 12 ½ cents.' For the first and only number he revised 'The Murders in the Rue Morgue,' which had appeared in Graham's Magazine for April 1841 and 'The Man That Was Used Up,' which had appeared in the Gentleman's Magazine for August 1839. The pamphlet, The Prose Romances of Edgar A. Poe... No. 1, was probably issued in July 1843" (John D. Gordon, "Edgar Allan Poe. An Exhibition on the Centenary of His Death October 7, 1849" in Bulletin of the New York Public Library, Vol. 53, No. 10, October 1949, pp. 481-2).
In "The Murders in the Rue Morgue," Poe's first "tale of ratiocination" (his term), the author created the detective story genre ("the beginning of it all," The Lilly Library, p.13). In it C. Auguste Dupin, an eccentric genius of exceptional analytic powers, solves a brutal double murder which took place in a locked room. After examining the evidence and discovering clues, and through his powers of deduction, Dupin identifies the criminal as an escaped ape. Dupin played "detective" (the term was not yet invented) in two further stories: "The Mystery of Marie Rogêt" (serialized late 1842 and early 1843) and "The Purloined Letter" (first appearance 1844). All three were collected in Poe's Tales (1845). "Poe understatedly called 'Murders in the Rue Morgue' 'something in a new key.' In fact, few other works can claim its authority in giving rise to a new popular genre and setting its conventions... Poe's successors took over many large and small features of his work: the depiction of the detective as a detached gentlemanly amateur not associated with the police; the use of a first-person narrator who is not the detective (such as Dr. Watson and Archie Goodwin); the formulaic opening intrusions of the outside world on the detective's comfortable bachelor quarters or office; the general investigative pattern and presentation of clues to the reader; and not least the crime committed in a locked room, of which the first example is 'The Murders in the Rue Morgue' itself" (Kenneth Silverman, Edgar A. Poe: Mournfull and Never-Ending Remembrance, New York, 1992, p.174).
Only three other copies of The Prose Romances of Edgar Allan Poe... No. 1 have appeared at auction in the past forty years: a copy in contemporary wrappers in the David Gage Joyce sale in Chicago (Hanzel Galleries, September 23-24, 1973, $20,000), now in the William Self collection; the Donald Stralem copy in facsimile wrappers in the William E. Stockhausen sale (Sotheby Parke Bernet, 20 November 1974, also $20,000), now at Swarthmore College; and a copy without any wrappers in the H. Bradley Martin sale (Sotheby's, 30 January 1990, $55,000), now in a private collection. Another copy surfaced in the trade in 1992: a copy bound up with several pamphlets in contemporary quarter calf, The 19th Century Shop, The Poe Catalogue, 1992, item 117, "price upon inquiry," now in a private collection. References (not noted above): BAL 16138; Heartman & Canny, pp.77-79; Ellery Queen, The Detective Short Story: A Bibliography (1969), p.86.
CENSUS OF COPIES:
1. Henry E. Huntington Library and Art Gallery. San Marino, California. Original wrappers.
2. The Pierpont Morgan Library. New York. Original front wrapper only.
3. The Berg Collection, New York Public Library. Original wrappers. The finest copy in terms of condition.
4. Library of Congress. Washington, D.C. Original front wrapper only (and the only known copy inscribed by Poe).
5. Yale University. New Haven. Facsimile wrappers.
6. Regenstein Library, University of Chicago. Rebound, but with the original wrappers intact.
7. The Lilly Library, Indiana University. Bloomington, Indiana. Lacking wrappers.
8. University of Virginia. Charlottesville. Bound up without wrappers in a pamphlet volume.
9. University of Texas. Austin. Facsimile wrappers.
10. Private collection. The H. Bradley Martin copy. Lacking wrappers.
11. Free Library of Philadelphia. Lacking wrappers.
12. William Self. Los Angeles. Contemporary wrappers.
13. Private collection. The 19th Century Shop copy, bound up without wrappers with other pamphlets in a contemporary binding.
14. Swarthmore College. Swarthmore, Pennsylvania. The William E. Stockhausen-Michael Rae copy. Facsimile wrappers.
15. The present copy. Original wrappers.