Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Edgar Allan Poe's 'Tamerlane' auctioned - $662,500

Edgar Allan Poe's first publication 'Tamerlane and other Poems' was auctioned last Friday for a record $662,500 by Christie's Auction House. Wow. One of 12 known copies in existance, a worn and stained one at that. But does it really matter?

Rare does not even express the scaracity of this work. The work is so rare that in some of the stories about the auction, a Christie's expert is quoted as referring to it as "the black tulip of U.S. literature." No more than 50 copies were printed in 1827; 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... (most of this was taken from an NPR (gotta love em') article and the AP news release).

One of the biggest gripes I have spurred from this story came from news websurfing upon hearing of the auction. The gripe is most news agencies spelled his name wrong -throwing the 'e' instead of 'Allan'. The AP got it right - you could tell which news agencies actually proofread AP releases, as the header would read 'Edgar Allen Poe book sells for +$660,000', where the body (most likely swiped from the AP) spelled his name correctly throughout. Sad.

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