POE, Edgar Allan (1809-1849). Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque Philadelphia: Lea and Blanchard 1840.
2 vols., 8o, A FINE CONTEMPORARY PRESENTATION BINDING in highly appropriate somber, fine-grained black morocco, covers with several gilt and blind-stamped borders, gilt fleurons at inner corners of central panel, spine gilt in six compartments, four with concentric gilt rectangles, two gilt-lettered, g.e., board edges with gilt chevrons, glazed yellow endpapers, skilfull repair to front outer joint of vol. 1, minor rubbing, scattered foxing (heaviest at beginning and end), dark blue half morocco folding case. Provenance: Emily Virginia Chapman (presentation inscription from the author); Anonymous owner, a direct descendant of the recipient (sale Sotheby's, 24 September 1986, lot 201, verses not noted); anonymous owner (sale, Christie's, 7 October 1994, lot 120, verses not noted).
FIRST EDITION, INSCRIBED TO A RELATIVE, IN A MARVELOUS PRESENTATION BINDING, AND WITH AN APPARENTLY UNPUBLISHED 8-LINE VERSE. Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque, Poe's first collection of 25 tales, was issued in a modest edition of only 750 copies. Poe received no remuneration from the edition other than 20 author's copies, of which this is undoubtedly one. A PRESENTATION COPY, INSCRIBED TO HIS COUSIN in ink on the front glazed endpage in vol. 1 (a few words in the inscription are a bit light, where the glazed paper seems to have repelled his ink): "For Mrs. Emily Virginia Chapman, from Her Affectionate Cousin, The Author." In vol. 2 page 213 is misnumbered "231" and on page 219 the "i" in "ing," line 13 up, and the hyphen at the end of line 6 are both below the line (no priority). Both vols. with 4 pp. advertisements at back, (including glowing testimonials from Washington Irving, L.H. Sigourney, N.P. Willis, James K. Paulding and others). BAL 16133; Bleiler, p. 159; Heartman & Canny, pp. 49-54.
The recipient of this specially-bound copy was Poe's first cousin, Emily Virginia Herring Chapman [Beacham] (1822-1908), daughter of Elizabeth Poe Herring (Poe's father's younger sister) and of Henry Herring of Baltimore. Emily Elizabeth Herring's first husband, Nathan Chapman, died early in their marriage and in 1850 she remarried, to Robert Beacham of Baltimore, who also died soon after. She then made her home with her only daughter and her family. Poe remained close to this branch of his family; when he died in Baltimore on 7 October 1849 it was Henry Herring (the recipient's father) who organized his funeral. Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque contains the 25 stories which Poe had written up to 1840, all but one of which had appeared in various periodicals including the Southern Literary Messenger, the annual Gift and Burton's Gentleman's Magazine. Although the collection proved a commercial failure, it constituted a milestone in Poe's career, the culmination of his strenuous efforts to have his prose collected in book form. The book features two of Poe's most enduring stories: the "Ms. Found in a Bottle" and "The Fall of the House of Usher". INSCRIBED WORKS OF POE ARE VERY RARE. The only other known copy in this costly and elegant presentation binding, is a copy in the collection of the Philadelphia Free Library. A set Poe presented to the banker and stateman Nicholas Biddle was in the usual plain muslin-backed boards (Christie's New York, May 16, 1986, lot 116).
[With:] Manuscript poem, DOCUMENTED TO BE IN POE'S HAND, apparently unpublished, written in faint contemporary pencil on a blank flyleaf at front of vol.1. The poem, comprising two four-line stanzas, appears to have been written in some haste, perhaps extemporized on the occasion of presentation, and exhibits one emendation in the last line and one word (possibly 'love'?) omitted in the fourth line. The otherwise unknown verses read: "We only part to meet again, Tho' mighty boundless waves may sever Remembrance oft shall bring you near And I will [blank] thee yes forever. And oft at midnight's silent hour When brilliant planets gild the ocean Thy name shall rise to heaven's highest star And mingle with my soul's devotion."
The handwriting shows many strong correspondences to that of Poe: the use of decorative, looping, almost calligraphic capital letters (especially "R," "A," and "T"), the general slant of the writing and the spacing of the lines. Unfortunately, the lightness of the pencil renders definitive identification difficult. The late Charles Hamilton unqualifiedly certified the verses to be in Poe's hand (a copy of that certification accompanies this lot). Hamilton made a special study of Poe's handwriting and forgeries (most notably those of Joseph Cosey). For a further discussion of his work on Poe forgeries, see Hamilton's, Great Forgers and Famous Fakes (2nd ed., Lakewood, CO, 1996), pp. 88-120. If additional research confirm's Hamilton's identification, this would then constitute A PREVIOUSLY UNPUBLISHED POEM OF EDGAR ALLAN POE.