The First Edition of Poe's "The Raven"
Edgar Allan Poe. The Raven and Other Poems.
New York: Wiley and Putnam, 1845. First edition. Octavo.
Approximately 7.25 x 4.75 inches. [i-viii] 91, [1, blank] pages.
With half-title ("Wiley and Putnam's Library of American Books.")
Beautifully bound to style in modern full mottled calf, covers
double-ruled in gilt, spine ruled and tooled in gilt in
compartments, five raised bands, olive and burgundy gilt morocco
lettering labels, black board edges and gilt turn-ins. A few leaves
mildly creased at upper corner, some very minor occasional
thumbsoiling. Overall a very desirable copy of this classic of
The year 1845 seemed to have been a high-point in the poet's life, for The Raven and Other Poems was an instant success, and its popularity immediate and sensational. Poe's life and works have been a subject of debate for years, some say that The Raven was written during his bout of depression and his visions due to his inspirational "fancies". "It is probable that he deliberately chose the raven as a typical bird of ill-omen because of its black plumage and its funereal air, making the single word it could utter the refrain for some undefinable sorrow" (Robertson, J.W. Commentary on the Bibliography of Edgar A. Poe, p. 226). Poe wrote of his own work: "I am dissatisfied with a conception of the brain, I resort forthwith to the pen, for the purpose of obtaining, through its aid, the necessary form, consequence and precision...There is however, a class of fancies, of exquisite delicacy, which are not thoughts, and to which, as yet, I have found it absolutely impossible to adapt language. I use the the word fancies at random, and merely because I must use some word; but the idea commonly attached to the term is not even remotely applicable to the shadows of shadows in question...These "fancies" have in them a pleasurable ecstasy as far beyond the most pleasurable of the world of wakefulness, or of dreams. as the Heaven of the Northman theology is beyond its Hell...Now so entire is my faith in the power of words, that, at times, I have believed it possible to embody even the evanescence of fancies such as I have attempted to describe" (Robertson p. 229). The critic E.C. Stedman, one of the greatest and kindliest of Poe's critics said of The Raven: "Only genius can deal so closely with the grotesque and make it add to the solemn beauty of structure an effect like that of the gargoyles seen by moonlight on the facade of Notre Dame...Poe's Raven is the very genius of the Night's Plutonian shore, different from other ravens, entirely his own, and none other can take its place. It is an emblem of the irreparable, the guardian of pitiless memories, whose burden ever recalls to us the days that are no more..." This fine copy is a cornerstone of the American Renaissance and a true American classic, and became instantly one of our nation's most famous poems.
BAL 16147. Heartman and Canny, pp. 97-108.
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