Seeing Poe: An Upcoming Online Exhibit

Step right up, ladies and gentlemen! Get ready for the greatest show on earth—at least the greatest digital exhibit of Edgar Allan Poe on earth!

In the next few weeks my group will be preparing an online exhibit that uses objects from the MSE Library’s extensive Poe collection to investigate perceptions of Poe from different angles and how these perceptions have changed over time. My focus is on visual representations of Poe and will contain three illustrations, one photograph, and one video that show how different artists have interpreted Poe throughout the decades. I will give a short, tanatalizing preview here, but be sure to check out the exhibit, because it’s going to be great!

Poe, Edgar Allan. The Poetical Works of Edgar Allan Poe, of America. London: Abbey & co., 1856, Page 83.

The first is an illustration from the book The Poetical Works of Edgar Allan Poe, of America, published in 1856, shortly after Poe’s death. The illustrations are in a classical, romantic style. Poe has not yet gained his reputation for gothic horror and the book is simply a display of his talents as a poet, particularly as a writer of love poems.

The second is an illustration from The Bells, published more than twenty years later in 1881. Here we see the growing reputation of Poe—not just as writer of creepy tales and poems, but as a writer in general. The entire volume is dedicated to one poem—“The Bells”—not just a collection of his work.

The third object is from Aubrey Beardsley’s Illustrations to the Works of Edgar Allan Poe, which I blogged about earlier. These exquisite and simple illustrations show the changing style of illustration of the time and capture the gothic-ness of Poe in a unique way.

The fourth object is from Simon Marsden’s Visions of Poe, which tries to capture the world as Poe saw it through photographs.

The last object is from Tim Burton’s Vincent, which brings us close to present day

Burton, Tim. Vincent. Walt Disney Studios, 1982, 4:26.

and also shows the cult that has built up around Poe and Poe culture.

These objects can hardly cover the hundreds of amazing illustrations and videos I’ve gotten to look at while researching Poe this semester, but they do highlight how both illustration and Poe has changed over time and how Poe has gone from a near-nobody to a beloved cultural icon and inspiration for artists everywhere. Be sure to look out for the exhibit in the coming weeks!


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