Edgar Allan Poe and “The Raven”

The following guest post is by Amber Paranick, a librarian in the Newspaper & Current Periodical Reading Room.

Le corbeau = The raven : poëme, 1875 . Rare Book and Special Collections Division. Photo by Amber Paranick, 2015.

Le corbeau = The raven : poëme, 1875. Rare Book and Special Collections Division.
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Photo by Amber Paranick, 2015.

Today, January 19th, we celebrate the 206th birthday of Edgar Allan Poe. Poe was an American writer, poet, and critic during the romantic era and is perhaps best known for his stories of mystery and horror. He published many short stories during his career and is said to have invented the genre of detective fiction. One of his most famous works, the poem “The Raven,” was first published 170 years ago, in January 1845. It begins:

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore–
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
“‘Tis some visitor,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door–
Only this and nothing more.”

I was probably 5 or 6 years old when I first heard this poem, after demanding that my parents read me a bedtime story from the massive volume, The Complete Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe:

The author's family's copy of The Complete Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe. Photo by Lori Russell, the author's mother, 2015.

Family copy of The Complete Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe. Photo by Lori Russell, the author’s mother, 2015.

Since then, I’ve always found his works to be captivating (albeit terrifying if read as a bedtime story at a young age), and I still find myself paging through the book (still on my parents’ bookshelf) for something new every time I’m home for a visit.

Poe lived and worked in a number of cities–including Richmond, Boston, Baltimore, New York, and Philadelphia–and many of them have consequently claimed Poe as their own. Poe lived in Philadelphia from 1838 to 1844, and his residence there has been preserved as the Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site. A mural of Poe is visible on a house adjacent to the Poe house in Philadelphia, PA:

"Sign for Poe's House in Phila." mage Credit: RTLibrary on Flickr.

“Sign for Poe’s House in Phila.” Image Credit: RTLibrary on Flickr.

Working here in the Newspaper & Current Periodical Reading Room, I’ve come across many popular poems printed in serialized form in newspapers and periodicals of the day before being published in book form. “The Raven” itself was first accepted for publication in the February 1845 (vol. 1, no. 2) edition of the journal The American Review under the pseudonym Quarles.

Although first accepted for publication in The American Review, the poem may have first been published in New York’s The Evening Mirror on January 29, 1845 (see the Notes for “The Raven” on the Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore website for more details on the poem’s first publication):

The Evening Mirror, p. 4. Rare Book and Special Collections Division. Photo by Amber Paranick, 2015.

The Evening Mirror, p. 4. Rare Book and Special Collections Division. Photo by Amber Paranick, 2015.

The poem was well-received in popular serial literature as evidenced by the introduction to the poem by the editor of The Evening Mirror itself:

Editor's introduction to "The Raven," <em>The Evening Mirror</em>, January 29, 1845. Rare Book and Special Collections Division. Photo by Amber Paranick, 2015.

Editor’s introduction to “The Raven,” The Evening Mirror, January 29, 1845. Rare Book and Special Collections Division. Photo by Amber Paranick, 2015.

The poem was next reprinted in the February 4, 1845, issue of the New-York Daily Tribune. It was also published in the February, 1845, issue of The Broadway Journal (a weekly periodical edited by Poe himself):

Page 90, The Broadway Journal, 1845. Rare Book and Special Collections Division. Photo by Amber Paranick, 2015.

Page 90, The Broadway Journal, 1845. Rare Book and Special Collections Division.
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Photo by Amber Paranick, 2015.

It was republished again in the March, 1845, issue of The Southern Literary Messenger, and subsequently in many other sources.

A myriad of other newspaper articles written about Poe are just waiting to be discovered in Chronicling America, the Library’s collection of selected digitized American newspapers. See, for instance, “The True History of Edgar Allan Poe: Child of Destiny, a biography of Poe appearing in the July 7, 1903, Sunday edition of the Washington Times. Want more specifics about Poe’s relationships with women? See “Stories of the Women Who Loved Edgar Allan Poe” in the January 17, 1909, edition of The Washington Herald.

Looking for more online information about Poe from the Library of Congress? You can:

And, if you are impressed by the Philadelphia mural art depicting Poe, you may want to take a look at my previous blog post on found poetry in street art.

On a final note, I grew up near Pittsburgh, PA, and by default have long been a Pittsburgh Steelers fan. My friends and family for many years have held a (mostly friendly) rivalry between those who support the Baltimore Ravens. My feelings on the rivalry are captured in the following broadside:

Broadside compliments of artist, Fred Carrow, family friend of the author.

Broadside compliments of artist, Fred Carrow, family friend of the author.

6 Comments

  1. Mohamad Yaghoubi
    January 19, 2015 at 5:21 am

    very nice

  2. Connie Currie
    January 19, 2015 at 8:56 am

    I first read Poe in elementary school and the stories scared me, the poems, such as the Raven, I loved. They sing. Connie

  3. C L Couch
    January 19, 2015 at 12:37 pm

    What a wonderful commemoration to Poe. The factual parts and the narrative parts are all engaging. Poe has been my favorite American author for his works, ever since high school. Poe’s works were an influence in my becoming an English teacher. I live in Harrisburg; and, yes, we own Poe in Pennsylvania, too. Today, then, we celebrate the life of Poe; the life of Martin Luther King, Jr.; and the eve of a new gubernatorial administration. Lots of meaning. Lots of joy. Thank you!

  4. Maren Rosas
    January 19, 2015 at 2:09 pm

    Thank you for this enjoyeable article. I was just looking on my shelf at an old book I have that was published in 1966 by the International Collectors Library titled,”Complete Stories of Edgar Allen Poe.” Now I will have to fond a copy of the Raven and reread it with a much better understanding.

  5. Michael Kirkland
    January 19, 2015 at 10:13 pm

    Thank you every so much for this wonderful blog on my literary hero, Edgar Allen Poe. Unfortunately, his birthday coincided with the MLK Jr. holiday today. Baltimore used to celebrate his birthday in style by conducting readings of his poems and leaving a glass of brandy and a rose at his graveside.
    I wrote my Master’s thesis on Poe at GWU in 1970 and did most of my research at the LOC. It was a labor of love.
    I’ll forgive the Steelers shameful caricature because the Ravens got the last word in the playoffs this year: NEVERMORE!

  6. Stephen Sakellarios
    May 25, 2019 at 6:05 am

    Poe did not get permission to publish “The Raven” in advance–that was never done, and this should be a red flag to historians. It was written by Mathew Franklin Whittier, younger brother of poet John Greenleaf Whittier, who was writing for the NY “Tribune” at the time. I have a great deal of information supporting this theory (which I have already published). MFW was a long-time admirer of the poet Francis Quarles, and it was he who submitted it to “American Review” under the signature, “—- Quarles.”

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