Edgar Allen Poe: A Memorial Volume (1877)

In 1877 a school teacher and avid supporter of the movement to create a monument to Edgard Allen Poe in Baltimore published a book entitled “Edgar Allen Poe: A Memorial Volume.” Sara Sigourney Rice‘s book is comprised of several sections, each of which contribute to the memory of Poe in a different way.

I was drawn to the object by its bright blue cover. The cover is a gilded publisher’s binding. The typeface almost looks like that of an advertisement, but the decoration is very ornate. It makes sense that the book would be eye-catching considering Sara’s efforts to support the erection of a monument to Poe as well as supplement this monument with another physical manifestation of the appreciation she believed his poetry deserved.

What is most interesting about this book from the aesthetic perspective is the inclusion of correspondence. There are many facsimiles of letters to Poe printed in a section of the book entitled “Letters from Poets and Authors.” However, while some of them have been transcribed in the typeface of the rest of the book, the facsimile prints are almost entirely illegible. What, then, was the point of including them? Just as the book I analyzed in my first blog post was more important because of its existence rather than its actual function, it appears as though the fact that these letters were handwritten for Poe by famous authors and do exist in physical form is more important than what they might actually say. Several of them do not appear to include Poe’s name at all, as with the letter pictured below, but there must be a reason they were included.  Simply the decision to include them gives them weight and importance. Furthermore, each section of the book has an introductory title page with a photograph, but this section begins with the page shown below, in which the section title written in a typeface that matches the ornate, rich letters and decorations on the cover. Why is this section, the one section of the book that literally cannot be read, the most important? Once again, these letters have more to do with Poe’s existence and his relations to others than what was actually said as emblematic of his importance in memorializing his life in general.

Section title page. Sara Sigourney Rice. Edgar Allan Poe : a Memorial Volume. Baltimore: Turnbull Brothers, 1877.
Letter. Sara Sigourney Rice. Edgar Allan Poe : a Memorial Volume. Baltimore: Turnbull Brothers, 1877.

Rice, Sara Sigourney. Edgar Allan Poe: A Memorial Volume, Baltimore: Turnbull Brothers, 1877.

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