Edgar Allan Poe's death in Baltimore in October 1849 ensured that the writer and the city would be forever linked. But it is Poe's life and legacy, both in and beyond Baltimore, that provide the focus for a new exhibition at the George Peabody Library in Baltimore's Mount Vernon neighborhood.
The George Peabody Library is part of Johns Hopkins University's Sheridan Libraries.
The Enigmatic Edgar A. Poe in Baltimore & Beyond features highlights from the Susan Jaffe Tane Collection of Edgar Allan Poe, one of the finest private collections of Poe materials in the world. Items on display include:
- Poe's first published book of poems, one of only 12 known copies and "the most celebrated rarity in American literature"
- The engagement ring that Poe gave to the woman who had been his teenage sweetheart in Richmond
- The story that launched Poe's career as an author—"MS. Found in a Bottle"—published when he won a contest in The Baltimore Saturday Visiter
- "The Tell-Tale Heart" and "The Fall of the House of Usher" as they first appeared to readers in magazines
- The New-York Tribune obituary that ruined Poe's reputation
- Comic book adaptations of Poe's stories and international translations of his works
- A lock of Poe's hair
"I am delighted to bring Edgar Allan Poe back to visit his beloved Baltimore with the opening of this exhibition at the Peabody Library," Susan Tane said. "Despite his tragic death here, I can think of no better place to celebrate his enduring prominence in American Literature."
Best known for horror stories and his eerie poem "The Raven," Poe was also an accomplished literary critic and served as the editor of the Southern Literary Messenger. In addition, Poe was a tireless experimenter and is credited with inventing the literary genres of science fiction and detective fiction.
"We are deeply grateful to Susan for making this exhibition possible," said Winston Tabb, Sheridan Dean of University Libraries and Museums. "Her generous loan of these materials will give exhibition visitors the opportunity to see Poe's work and how it was received in his time, and the rich and varied legacy that he inspired."
Born in Boston in 1809, Edgar Poe was orphaned at a young age and raised by the Allans of Richmond, who were friends of his mother. The couple never formally adopted Poe, but he lived with them in England and the United States into young adulthood. After brief stints at the University of Virginia and the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, Poe determined to make his living as a writer, a decision that would carry him back and forth between the cities of Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Richmond in search of work and publishing opportunities.
Poe died 167 years ago this week, on Oct. 7, 1849, in Baltimore. He is buried at Baltimore's Westminster Hall.
"Readers all around the world love the dark side of Poe—his thrilling, macabre, and melancholy tales and poems," said Gabrielle Dean, curator of literary rare books and manuscripts at the Sheridan Libraries and the curator of the exhibition. "We're definitely honoring those features of his writing in this exhibition, but the wonderful depth and breadth of Susan's collection also allows us to see other facets of Poe's work. He was interested in science and technology; he was multi-lingual; he wrote a newspaper puzzle column. His ability to innovate, to adapt to an uncertain publishing environment has a lot of relevance for today."
The Enigmatic Edgar A. Poe opens on Tuesday, Oct. 4, and is free and open to the public. The exhibition runs through Sunday, Feb. 5, 2017 at the George Peabody Library. The George Peabody Gallery is open Tuesdays through Thursdays, 10 a.m.–5 p.m.; Fridays and Saturdays, 10 a.m.&ndash3 p.m.; and Sundays, 10 a.m.–1 p.m.. The gallery is closed on Mondays.