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Special Collections & Archives

The rare or unique holdings of Nimitz Library.

Once Upon a Midnight Dreary

by Jennifer Bryan on 2022-10-31T09:59:08-04:00 in English / Literature, History, Special Collections & Archives | 0 Comments

Within the Rear Admiral Paul H. Wiedorn Collection are numerous popular periodicals of the nineteenth century, including Graham’s Magazine, Godey’s Lady’s Book, and the Columbian Magazine; and it is in these publications that many of Edgar Allan Poe’s tales of mystery and the macabre first appeared in print.  Poe would write, "the whole tendency of the age is Magazine-ward."  Among the jobs he held during his brief and checkered career were editor of the Southern Literary Messenger, book review editor of Graham’s, and editor of the Broadway Journal.   

Portrait of Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849) from the February 1845 issue of Graham's Magazine.

One of the most influential writers of the nineteenth century, Poe produced poems, short stories, essays, book reviews, and one novel.  In the year of the Naval Academy’s founding, he became world-famous with the publication of his poem “The Raven.”  He transformed the genre of the Gothic tale with his mastery of psychological insight, was an early pioneer of science fiction, and is credited with inventing the modern detective story, influencing, among others, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes.  

Poe's tale of "ratiocination" featuring amateur detective C. Auguste Dupin first appeared in the April 1841 edition of Graham's Magazine.  Poe would write two more Dupin stories, "The Mystery of Marie Rogêt" and "The Purloined Letter."  The former was based on an actual murder, that of Mary Rogers, referred to in the press as the "beautiful cigar girl."

Artist John Sartain's engraving accompanying Poe's "The Island of the Fay," which appeared in Graham's for June 1841.  One of the features of the magazine, published in Philadelphia from 1840 to 1858, was its illustrations, including colored plates of both men's and women's fashions.  Below are the fashions for June 1841. (The gentlemen's heads appear cut off because the plate is bound tightly into the volume so that the tops of their heads are in the gutter of the book).

"The Assignation" as it first appeared, under the title "The Visionary," in the January 1834 issue of Godey's Lady's Book.  It is the story of a secret love affair and its consequences. 

Poe published several of his tales, including "The Oblong Box," A Tale of the Ragged Mountains," and "Thou Art the Man," in this Philadelphia publication that he once referred to as a "a milliner's magazine."   The fashion plate appeared in the January 1834 issue of Godey's.  The engraving is of Queen Victoria and her children. 

One of Poe's best-known stories, this tale of revenge was seldom reprinted in his own time.  It first appeared in the November 1846 issue of Godey's Lady's Book.

Poe's "Mesmeric Revelation," "The Angel of the Odd," and "The Domain of Arnheim" first appeared in the Columbian Magazine, the first two in August and October 1844, and the latter in March 1847. 

Appropriate for Halloween is Poe's haunting tale of the uninvited guest, the figure "tall and gaunt, and shrouded from head to foot in the habiliments of the grave."  The story first appeared in Graham's Magazine in May 1842.  When Poe republished it three years later, he changed "Mask" to "Masque," subtly changing the meaning.

In 1839, Philadelphia publishers Lea & Blanchard issued a two-volume collection of Poe's stories entitled Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque.  In 1845, Wiley & Putnam of New York published a collection of twelve tales as a volume in their “Library of American Books” series.  The “Editors’ Book Table” section of the December 1845 issue of Godey’s Lady’s Book, commenting on Poe’s Tales, stated, “It takes genius to astonish.  This Poe possesses, and he has exhibited some of its most decisive proofs in the volume before us.” 



Poe, Edgar Allan.  The Annotated Poe.  Edited by Kevin J. Hayes.  Cambridge: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2015.  PS 2603.H39 2015

Sova, Dawn B.  Edgar Allan Poe A to Z: The Essential Reference to His Life and Work.  New York: Checkmark Books, 2001.  PS 2630.S68 2001

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