Friday, December 4, 2009

Quoth the Raven: Never before

The dark wordsmith Edgar Allen Poe, were he alive today, might brighten a bit to learn that his first published work fetched more than a half-mil at auction today - and set a new record to boot.

The rare, tattered copy of "Tamerlane and Other Poems" sold for $662,500 earlier today, smashing the previous record price for American literature. The 40-page collection of poems was published in 1827 by the author, who identified himself only as "a Bostonian" on these particular pages. According to the Associated Press, Poe wrote the book shortly after moving to Boston to launch his literary career.
The previous record is believed to be $250,000 for a copy of the same book sold nearly two decades ago, per the AP.

No more than 40 or 50 copies of "Tamerlane" were printed, and only 12 remain.
The record-breaking copy is stained and frayed and has V-shaped notches on the outer and lower margins.

According to a post on Marjorie Kehe's Chapter and Verse blog, the book’s owner is former television executive and rare book collector William Self. His 300-book collection, all of which goes on sale today, also includes rare works by Mark Twain, Jane Austen, and Charles Dickens.
Self, who is 88, has told the press that were his children to inherit the books, they wouldn’t be able to afford to pay the taxes on them.

Kehe writes that “Tamerlane” is the Latinized name of 14th-century historical figure Timur, a Mongol conqueror and emperor. Although a fierce and controversial character with a mixed legacy, Timur was a great patron of the arts who, according to legend, knew a thing or two about rare books himself. His court calligrapher is said to have created two remarkable editions of the Koran, one so small that its text fit on a signet ring, and the other so large that it had to be carried in a wheelbarrow.

For my fellow poetry geeks, click here for the full text of "Tamerlane."

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