Eureka: A Prose Poem (1848)


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This volume was issued about July 11, 1848. (Arrangements for publication had been made with Putnam by May 23, 1848, when Poe signed a promissory note for a loan, to be repaid from the proceeds of Eureka.) The earliest reviews appear in the Morning Express (New York) and the Commercial Advertiser (New York) of July 12, 1848. The copy provided to the Clerk’s Office for copyright was deposited on July 31, 1848.

Eureka: A Prose Poem (1848)

The number of copies printed is uncertain. Although Poe dearly wanted an edition of 50,000 copies, apparently only 500 were printed. The suggestion is made on occasion that in this work, Poe is being satirical or hoaxing, but the evidence strongly shows that Poe took his essay on cosmology very seriously indeed (aside from the intentionally humorous material in the first section). In a letter of July 7, 1849 to Mrs. Clemm, Poe wrote: “I have no desire to live since I have done ‘Eureka.’ I could accomplish nothing more.”


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Bibliographic Data:

12mo (7 3/8 in x 5 1/16 in). Pages [1] - 143, plus advertisements. Binding: Black cloth, of two varieties.



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Census of Copies:

There are so many surviving copies of these volumes that a complete listing is impractical and unnecessary. This census records copies of special interest. The provenance of each entry is established as authoritatively as possible, given the sketchy and often convoluted bits of information available. In nearly all cases, the chain of owners has gaps, especially among the early owners, whose names are generally known only if the owner left an inscription.

Copies annotated by Poe:

  • Susan Jaffe Tane, private collector, New York. (Poe’s own copy, heavily annotated in his own hand.) The list of prior owners is as follows: 1. Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849); 2. Rufus Wilmot Griswold (1815-1857), New York editor and Poe’s literary executor (presumably sent to Griswold by Poe’s aunt, Maria Clemm)  (sold by Griswold’s son, William Griswold, at Bangs and Co. in NY on Apri 23, 1895 for $69); 3. Peirce (sold May 5, 1903 for $50); 4. John Fletcher Hurst (1834-1903), Madison, New Jersey, president of Drew Theological Seminary (sold March 20, 1905 for $530); 5. Stephen H. Wakeman; 6. A. W. S. Rosenbach; 7. Mrs. Florence Meyer Blumenthal (1875-1930) of Paris; 8. Gabriel Wells, New York bookseller, (purchased in March or April 1933 along with the Blumenthal’s entire collection, paying $50,000 for all items); 9. H. Bradley Martin (Martin purchased the entire collection of Poe material offered by Wells about 1940); 10. Stephen Lowentheil, 19th Century Shop, Baltimore; 11. Susan Jaffe Tane (purchased about 1993 for $120,000) (A beautiful and remarkably faithful facsimile of this copy was made in 1928 in Paris, in an edition of 50 copies. It is occasionally mistaken for the original. Indeed, the edition of Eureka edited by Stuart and Susan F. Levine, 2004, misleadingly lists the original as being in the Pierpont Morgan Library in New York, where they may have examined one of the facsimiles instead of the original. Alternatively, they may have been able to see the original in the mid 1980s, while H. Bradley Martin kept some of his Poe materials on deposit at the Pierpont Morgan Library. Because publication of their Eureka was unexpectedly delayed for more than a decade, Martin had died and his collection had been sold at auction many years before the imprint date, which may explain why his name is not mentioned in the acknowledgments.)
  • J. K. Lilly Library, University of Indiana (Sarah H. Whitman’s copy, with Poe’s annotations, probably from September or October of 1848). The inscription reads: “To Mrs. Sarah Helen Whitman from the most sincere of her friends, Edgar A. Poe.” The list of prior owners is as follows: 1. Sarah Helen Whitman; 2. Miss Charlotte F. Dailey and Mrs. Henry R. Chace, Providence, RI (inherited from Mrs. Whitman); 3. Max Harzof, New York bookdealer (purchased from Miss Dailey and Mrs. Chace in 1930 for $20,000. Harzof offered the collection about August of 1930 to Owen D. Young for $65,000, but Young declined due to the effect of the Depression on his finances); 4. J. K. Lilly (Shipped to Lilly on September 10, 1930 for $50,000, paid in four installments, making the final payment on December 1, 1930); 5. Lilly Library (donated by Lilly in 1956)
  • Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin (another copy with Poe’s own annotations) (formerly from the collection of William H. Koester) (Whitty, Nelson, Mabbott) (Nelson auction, Nov. 22, 1915, sold for $32.50.)
  • Alderman Library, University of Virginia (Mary Osborn’s copy, sent by Poe on July 15, 1848, with Poe’s annotations)

Other copies:

  • Bayard Taylor copy. (Private Collection of Susan Jaffe Tane). (This copy is signed by Bayard Taylor.) The list of prior owners is as follows: 1. Bayard Taylor; 2. Charles B. Foote; 3. Stephen H. Wakeman; 4. John Fleming; 5. 19th Century Shop; 6. Susan Jaffe Tane (purchased about 1991 for $7,500)
  • George Lippard copy. (Currently in the Gimbel Collection, Philadelphia Free Public Library.) (This copy was offered for sale by Dr. Abraham Simon Wolf Rosenbach in 1947 for $785 (Item 477). It contains the following statement, in the hand of George Lippard, on the dedication page: “Presented to me by Poe, when we parted, and when I saw him last. G. L.”  Although it is listed as a “presentation copy” in the catalogue, the book does not contain an inscription by Poe. Lippard was one of Poe’s close friends, living in Philadelphia. He last saw Poe in 1849, a few months prior to Poe’s death.)
  • Charles West Thomson copy. (Current location unknown). (This copy is signed by Thomson.) This copy is listed by Charles F. Heartman in a catalog dated September 1941 (p. 21), where it is noted as “A superlative copy. With the autograph of the Pennsylvania poet, Charles West Thomson, on flyleaf.” (The price noted is $345.00.)

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Bibliography:

  • American Art Association Auction Catalogue, The Stephen H. Wakeman Collection of Books of Nineteenth Century American Writers, April 1924 (items 954 and 955).
  • Blanck, Jacob, “Edgar Allan Poe,” Bibliography of American Literature; volume 7: James Kirke Paulding to Frank Richard Stockton, New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1983, p. 122. (Volume 7 is edited and completed by Virginia L. Smyers and Michael Winship.) (This book is item 16153.)
  • Heartman, Charles F., “A Remarkable Addition to the Poe Census,” American Book Collector, vol. III, no. 4, April 1933, 3:246
  • Heartman, Charles F. and James R. Canny, A Bibliography of First Printings of the Writings of Edgar Allan Poe, Hattiesburg, Mississippi, 1940, pp. 86-87.
  • Heartman, Charles F. and James R. Canny, A Bibliography of First Printings of the Writings of Edgar Allan Poe, Hattiesburg, Mississippi, 1943 (revised edition), pp. 121-124. (Reprinted, Millwood, New York: Kraus Reprint Co., 1977.)
  • Nelson, Roland W., “Apparatus for a Definitve Edition of Eureka,” Studies in the American Renaissance 1978, pp. 161-204.
  • 19th Century Bookshop sale Catalogue, The Poe Catalogue, Baltimore, 1992, pp. 83-86. (Page 84 features a photograph of the final page of Eureka, heavily annotated in Poe’s hand. The catalogue lists 5 copies of Eureka as items 206-210. Poe’s own copy is listed for $125,000. The remaining copies are listed from $3,200 - 7,500.)
  • Quoth the Raven: Selections from the Susan Jaffe Tane Edgar Allan Poe Collection, 1997, pp. 68-69. (Page 68 features a photograph of the final page of Eureka, heavily annotated in Poe’s hand.)
  • Randall, David A., The J. K. Lilly Collection of Edgar Allan Poe: An Account of Its Formation, Indiana: The Lilly Library, 1964, pp. 39-42. (These pages provide a history of Lilly’s acquisition of the S. H. Whitman collection, including her copy of Eureka, inscribed and annotated by Poe.)
  • Southeby Auction Catalogue, The Library of H. Bradley Martin: Highly Important American and Children’s Literature, New York, January 30 and 31, 1990, item 2212.
  • Tane, Susan Jaffe and Gabriel Mckee, Evermore: The Persistence of Edgar Allan Poe, New York: The Golier Club, 2014, item 61.

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[S:0 - JAS] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Works - Editions - Eureka: A Prose Poem (1848)