Tamerlane and Other Poems (1827)


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This small, slender, paper-bound volume of about 40 pages was the inauspicious beginning of Poe’s career as a poet. It was published about June or July of 1827, and received almost no notice at all during Poe’s lifetime. (It was listed in the United States Review and Literary Gazette for August 1827 as a recent publication. It was similarly noted in the North American Review for October 1827.) Indeed, when Poe published Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane and Minor Poems in 1829, his claims of an earlier edition were considered untrue. No copy was known until 1876, when one was found in the library of the British Museum, where it had been sent as part of a miscellaneous collection of American books in 1860. A second copy was not found until 1890, in Boston. Perhaps as many as 200 copies were printed (Mabbott, 1941, p. xxx.), though J. A. Harrison guessed that there were fewer than 40 (Harrison, 1902, 1:66). In any case, today, there are only about 12 surviving copies, several being imperfect. A number of facsimiles of this book have been printed.

Tamerlane and Other Poems (1827)

There are no known signed or presentation copies of this book. In fact, it appears that Poe himself kept no copy. The bibliography of Poe’s works compiled in 1943 by Heartman and Canny notes: “a copy autographed by the author has been rumored.” This possibility was discounted by T. O. Mabbott in 1941. As Mabbott notes, this is probably the Young-Berg copy, which bears a “presentation” from someone other than Poe.

There is some question as to whether or not the pamphlet was technically “published” or, as Poe suggested in 1829, “suppressed.” T. O. Mabbott reasonably surmised that Poe intended “suppressed” as a euphemism for not having been formally circulated. A few copies, however, apparently did circulate, probably disbursed from a sale of Thomas’s stock when he moved from Boston around 1828. The Berg-Young copy has a handwritten price, in ink, of “9d,” about 12 1/2 cents. This price is presumed to predate 1835. Since two notices appeared in 1827, it is likely that a few early copies were sent out for review. One copy was also likely sent by Edgar to his brother Henry, in Baltimore. From this copy, Henry had two of the poems reprinted in a Baltimore newspaper, The North American.

No reviews of the book were written, and only a few notices are known: The United States Review and Literary Gazette (Boston, August 1827), The North American Review (October 1827) and Samuel Kettle, “Catalogue of American Poetry,” Specimens of American Poetry (Boston, 1829). Two of the poems were slightly revised and reprinted in the Baltimore newspaper The North American. (On October 20, 1827, appeared “Dreams,” misleadingly titled “Extract” and on September 15, 1827, appeared the untitled poem beginning “The happiest day . . . ,” re-titled “Original.” Both poems carry the initials “W. H. P.,” Edgar’s brother, William Henry Leonard Poe.)

Very little is known about the printer of this pamphlet, Calvin Frederick Stephen Thomas. (Most of what we do know was compiled by T. O. Mabbott in the introduction to his 1941 facsimile of Tamerlane and Other Poems.) He was born in New York on August 5, 1808 and died in Buffalo on September 19, 1876. (He was buried in Forest Lawn Cemetery, in Buffalo, New York in Lot No. 13, Section 1 on September 22, 1876.) He left Boston around 1828, although he continued to practice his profession as a printer. About 1829, he married Eliza Ann Shields. Over the years, they had two sons (Calvin Frederick and Alfred) and five daughters (Agnes, Susan, Martha, Katherine and Ida). He moved to Buffalo, New York in May of 1835, where he published the Buffalo Daily Centinel (for six months in 1840), the Commercial Advertiser (early 1840s), the Commercial Advertiser Directory (1850s), the Western Literary Messenger (1846-1857) and the Buffalo Medical Journal (1846-1860). He also published a series of directories (1862-1868) and at least 19 books on a variety of topics. In 1869, he retired from the printing trade and moved to Springfield, Missouri. What printing experience he may have had prior to Tamerlane and Other Poems seems to have been limited to apothecary labels and similarly modest efforts. David Randall reprints the text of a receipt written by Thomas “Boston, Nov. 23, 1826 [/] Mr. A. F. Lowe [/] to Calvin F. S. Thomas, Dr. [/] to printing 3000 labels — $10.00 [/] Recd. Payt [/] Calvin F. S. Thomas,” quoted on p. 27. Randall also comments on two similar notes, one of 1827 to a Boston druggist is in the J. K. Lilly collection. The Lilly note is reprinted in Mabbott, 1941, p. xxx, footnote 19.


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Bibliographic Data:

12mo (6 3/8 in x 4 1/4 in). Pages [i-iv], [5] -40. Paper wrappers, variously described as tan, grayish-brown and “tea-color.” Printed sheets, approximately 3 1/2 - 4 mils (0.09-0.1 mm.).


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Census of Copies:

This census is believed to record all known surviving copies of Tamerlane and Other Poems. The provenance of each entry is established as authoritatively as possible, given the sketchy and often convoluted bits of information available. In nearly all case, the chain of owners has gaps, especially among the early owners, whose names are generally known only if the owner left an inscription.

Copies with paper cover intact:

  • Henry E. Huntington Library, San Marino, CA (rebound, with wrappers intact) The list of prior owners of this copy is as follows: 1. Richard Lichtenstein, Boston clerk at Burnham’s Antique Book Shop in Cornhill (purchased about 1874 in a book stall in Boston for 15 cents); 2. Dodd, Mead & Co., New York booksellers; 3. George T. Maxwell, New York collector (purchased from Dodd, Mead & Co. from their Catalogue of Americana, no. 30, dated October 1892, for $1,850. This owner had it rebound, for $400, in crushed brown morocco in Paris by Lortic, but fortunately retained the original wrappers); 4. Thomas Jefferson McKee (1840-1899), New York attorney and collector (purchased April 25, 1895 for $1450, from the Maxwell auction); 5. George H. Richmond, New York bookseller (purchased at an Anderson Galleries auction in New York on November 22, 1900 (lot 591), for $2,050 and immediately resold); 6. Frederic Robert Halsey (1847-1918), New York attorney and collector (purchased in 1900 from G. H. Richmond for $2,550);  7. Henry E. Huntington (1850-1927), New York and California collector, bought most of Halsey’s Poe collection. John W. Roberston states that Huntington bought both of Halsey’s copies of Tamerlane, but sold one as a duplicate to a Boston collector for $11,600 (Robertson, vol. II, p. 65); 8. Henry E. Huntington Library (donated by H. E. Huntington in 1919-1922).  (A handwritten note by Joseph Katz, on the rear flyleaf of his copy of New Glimpses of Poe, 1902, says “In Boston, at an auction sale, April 28, 1892, I saw a bookseller of New York buy for $1,850 ‘Tamerlane and Other Poems ’.”)
  • Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, University of Texas, Austin, Texas (formerly in the William H. Koester collection. This copy was originally found in Virginia about 1895, the only copy discovered outside of New England.) The list of prior owners of this copy is as follows: 1. Wade Keyes (an early owner, whose name is written on the title page of the book); 2. Thomas Dwight Samuel (another early owner, whose name is written on the book); 3. Eugene Lemoine Didier (1838-1913), Baltimore; 4. William Evarts Benjamin, New York bookseller (purchased in New York in 1888); 5. Frederic Robert Halsey (1847-1918) (purchased about 1901-1905); 6. Henry E. Huntington (1850-1927) (purchased by Huntington in 1919, but sold as a duplicate); 7. Frederick R. Halsey (purchased through George D. Smith for $10,500); 8. Frank Brewer Bemis (1861-1935), a Boston collector (purchased through George D. Smith on February 18, 1919, for $11,600); 9. Frank J. Hogan (1879-1944) (purchased through Dr. Abraham Simon Wolf Rosenbach (1876-1952), Philadelphia and New York bookdealer); 10. William H. Koester (1888-1964), Baltimore businessman and collector (purchased in January 1945 through New York dealer John F. Fleming  at an auction by Parke-Bernet Galleries, for $15,500); 11. University of Texas (purchased in 1966 along with the bulk of Koester’s collection). (A handwritten note by Joseph Katz, on the rear flyleaf of his copy of New Glimpses of Poe, 1902, says “Now in 1925 is found in a New England attic another copy which is sold by Mr Goodspeed to a private collector for $11,600.”)
  • Berg Collection, New York Public Library (the Young-Berg copy) (formerly in the collection of Owen D. Young. This copy was discovered in 1925. On the cover, in ink, is the handwritten price of “9d.”) The list of prior owners of this copy is as follows: 1. Martha M. Nelson, a school teacher, aged about 19, to Susan Saunders, a nine-year old pupil, in Milford, MA (presented by the teacher in 1834. Inscribed on the back of the front cover: “Presented to Susan Saunders from Martha A. Nelson.”); 2. Susan Saunders (the young girl wrote her name “Susan Saunders” on the front cover and on page 23, “Susan Saunders aged 10 years.”); 3. Mrs. Ada S. Dodd, Worcester, MA (the niece of S. Saunders); 4. Charles Eliot Goodspeed (purchased in 1925); 3. Owen D. Young (1874-1950) a New York attorney and president of General Electric Co. (purchased about 1925, for $17,500); 4. Dr. Albert Ashton Berg (1872-1950), New York collector (Dr. Berg purchased a half-interest in Young’s collection); 5. New York Public Library (donated by Mr. Young and Dr. Berg in 1941).
  • Lilly Library, Indiana University (from the collection of Josiah K. Lilly.) (This copy was officially discovered in 1925) The list of prior owners of this copy is as follows: 1. Unknown, apparently in New Hampshire (sold at auction abput 1919, perhaps for $11,500); 2. William F. Sullivan, Nasha, NH; 3. Charles Eliot Goodspeed, Boston bookseller (purchased in 1926 for $20,000); 4. Josiah Kirby Lilly, Jr. (1893-1966) (purchased from C. E. Goodspeed in 1926 for $25,000); 5. Indiana University (donated by Lilly in 1964).
  • Private Collection, unknown (This copy was discovered in 1926 or 1927 in the New York area. This copy appears to have been intentionally notched, a small v-shaped cutout, on the middle of the front edge and near the middle of the bottom edge, suggesting that it was marked as a remainder.) The list of prior owners of this copy is as follows: 1. Martha Ann Flint (the earliest known owner, her signature being on the inside of the front cover); 2. Sigurd Neandross, Ridgefield, NJ (1926 or 1927); 3. Dr. Abraham Simon Wolf Rosenbach (1876-1952), Philadelphia and New York (February 1927, for $15,000); 4. Mrs. Florence Meyer Blumenthal (1875-1930) of Paris (about 1927, for $28,500); 5. consigned by George Blumenthal to A. S. W. Rosenbach for sale (April 1931), but no purchasers came forward; 6. Gabriel Wells, New York (Wells purchased the Blumenthal’s entire Poe collection in March of 1933, for $50,000); 7. H. Bradley Martin (1906-1988) (Martin bought Well’s entire Poe collection about 1940); 9. William Edwin Self (1921-2010), California (purchased from the H. B. Martin sale for $150,000); 10. Private collector (purchased at the auction of W. E. Self, Christie’s, New York, December 4, 2009, for $682,000).
  • Alderman Library, University of Virginia (This copy was discovered about 1929.) The list of prior owners of this copy is as follows: 1. Phatimer Kinsell, Boston (an early owner whose name is known from his inscription on the title-page. Southeby’s 1988 catalogue notes that it was “given to his sweetheart.”) 2. Mary Reed, Waldoborough, Maine (the sweetheart mentioned in the inscription by Kinsell); 3. Patrick Kevin Foley (1856-1937), Boston bookdealer; 4. Arthur Swann, New York bookdealer (purchased in 1929 for a sum that exceeded $20,000); 5. Mrs. Shereburne Prescott, Greenwich, CT (purchased prior to 1933, apparently through New York bookdealer James Drake); 6. Clifton Waller Barrett, Charlottesville, VA (also purchased through James Drake); 7. The University of Virginia (donated by Mr. Barrett about 1956); 8. Stolen from the Alderman Library about 1974, current whereabouts are unknown.
  • Joseph Regenstein Library, University of Chicago. n. William E. Stockhausen, Dorset, VT (Purchased after 1959. Stockhousen died in a traffic accident in the Spring of 1973 or 1974); 1. Samuel Adams (an early owner whose name is know only by the inscription on the cover); 2. Unknown, apparently a postman in Bedford, MA; 3. Seven Gables Bookshop, New York (owned by Michael Papantonio. Purchased in 1954 for about $10,000 from Whitman Bennett, New York bookdealer, who sold in on consignment from the prior owner, possibly Louis Henry Dielman (1864-1959), head librarian of the Peabody Institute in Baltimore); 4. Jean and Donald Stralem, New York (purchased in 1954); 5. William E. Stockhausen (1898-1974), New York collector (purchased in 1970. Stockhausen died in a traffic accident in the Spring of 1974); 6. Joseph and Helen Regenstein Library, University of Chicago (purchased in 1974, through New York dealer John F. Fleming (1910-1987) at a Sotheby Parke-Bernet auction, for $123,000).
  • Susan Jaffe Tane, private collector, New York (This copy was discovered in 1988. Displayed at the Richmond Poe Museum, Oct. 1998; Morgan Library, New York, 2013; Grolier Club, New York, September-November 2014.) The list of prior owners is as follows: 1. An antiques shop in southern New Hampshire; 2. unidentified, private collector, Massachusetts (purchased on February 29, 1988 for the remarkably low price of $15); 3. Richard Manney, private collector, Massachusetts (purchased as Sothbey’s, New York, June 7, 1988, for $198,000); 4. Susan Jaffe Tane, private collector, New York (purchased on October 11, 1991 from Sotheby’s auction in New York for $143,000, apparently through Baltimore book dealer Stephan Loewentheil). (This copy has a circular mark on the cover, apparently made by the bottom of a drinking glass. The original low purchase price strongly suggests that the antique shop owner had no idea that the “Bostonian” noted as the author was Poe, or it was mistakenly thought to be a facsimile.)

Copies with damaged or missing paper cover:

  • British Library (rebound, wrappers removed) The list of prior owners of this copy is as follows: 1. Samuel G. Drake, a Boston bookseller; 2. Henry Stevens, Vermont bookseller (purchased in 1859 from S. G. Drake); 3. The British Library (purchased in 1860 from Mr. Stevens as part of a lot of Boston tracts imprints. The book is stamped with the receiving date of October 10, 1867. The payment was made in 1867, at one shilling for each title he had sent.)  (A typeset facsimile, bound in vellum, of this copy was printed in London in 1884 by George Redway, with an introduction by Richard Herne Shepherd. The number of copies is presumed to be 100. This facsimile is sometimes referred to as a second edition. It corrects some of the typographical errors present in the original)
  • Berg Collection, New York Public Library (the Howe-Berg copy) (This copy, formerly in the collection of W. T. H. Howe, was discovered in 1937.) The list of prior owners is as follows: 1. Andrew McCance, a Boston bookdealer; 2. William. T. H. Howe (1874-1939), New York and Cincinnati.(purchased about 1937 through New York bookdealer Alfred F. Goldsmith); 3. New York Public Library (donated by Dr. Berg in 1940-1941).
  • William Andrews Clark Library, University of California, Los Angeles (lacking wrappers) (This copy was discovered in 1914 or 1917. It is possible that this copy never had the paper covers and was instead sold as unbound sheets as part of the remainder of Thomas’s stock. This copy is marked “M. Hathaway’s Book. No. 23.” A photographic facsimile of this copy was produced in 1923, with separate bibliographic notes by William Andrews Clark, Jr., and an appreciation by James Grant Wilson.) 1. M. Hathaway (an early owner whose name appears as an inscription on the title-page. Southeby’s 1988 catalogue says it is “A Hathaway.”); 2. Unidentified woman, Boston; 3. Patrick K Foley (Purchased in September 1917 with several insignificant books); 4. A. S. W. Rosenbach, Philadelphia and New York bookseller (purchased in September 1917 for $3,000. Rosenbach offered the book to Mrs. Florence Meyer Blumenthal (1875-1930) of Paris, who chose not to purchase it. It appeared in two of Rosenbach’s sales catalogues: Catalgoue of Rare and Important Books, Broadsides, and Autograph Letters Relating to America, 1917, Arno no. 7, no. 1003, where the price is given as “Price upon application” and Catalogue of an Exhibition of Rare Books, Autograph Manuscripts, Literary Documents; comprising English Literature from Chaucer to Conrad, 1921, Arno 49, p. 24, described as “As issued with the original stiching,” with no price given.); 5. William Clark Andrews (1877-1934), Montana copper-mining heir and collector (purchased in 1923 for $9,500); 6. University of California (donated in 1926).
  • Richard Gimbel Collection, Free Library of Philadelphia (front wrapper damaged, rear wrapper lost. The front cover is missing a triangular piece approximately 1 inch along the spine edge and two inches along the top edge, breaking some of the ornamental border, but not touching the title. The cover is reproduced in The Poe Log, 1987, p. 82. The title page of this copy is reproduced as the frontispiece in the American Art Association catalogue, Rare & Valuable Books, Autographs, Manuscripts: Property of Edgar W. Dunbar, 1938.) (This copy was found in Maine about April 16, 1938.) The list of prior owners is as follows: 1. Joseph Bigelow, a carpenter in Bloomfield, Maine (his name is known only from his inscription on the title page, which reads “Joseph Bigelow [/] book [/] Bloomfield.” On the lower margin of the last page also appears the initial “J.”); 2. Edgar W. Dunbar, Skowhegan, Maine collector (Dunbar’s other Poe items were less significant, including a 2nd edition of The Conchologist’s First Book, 1840, and the 3 volumes of The Works of the Late Edgar Allan Poe, printed in 1850); 3. James F. Drake, New York bookseller (purchased for $4,300 on December 12-13, 1938 for Col. R. Gimbel); 4. Col. Richard Gimbel (1898-1970); 5. Free Library of Philadelphia (donated in 1971, in accordance with the last will and testament of Col. Gimbel).

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Bibliography:

  • [Associated Press writer], “Newly Found Copy of Poe Poems Bought by Collector,” The Sun (Baltimore), April 17, 1938. (A scanty account of the purchase of the W. T. H. Howe copy.)
  • [Associated Press writer], “Bidding on Poe: A $123,000 ‘Tamerlane ’,” The Washington Post, Nov. 21, 1974, p. C7.
  • 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. (Volume 7 is edited and completed by Virginia L. Smyers and Michael Winship.)
  • Gimbel, Col. Richard, “Quoth the Raven,” An Exhibition of the Work of Edgar Allan Poe,” The Yale University Gazette, XXX, no. 4, April 1959, pp. 138-189. (The Tamerlane noted as item 9, on page 141, is presumed to have been the copy belonging to H. Bradley Martin rather than Gimbel’s own imperfect copy.)
  • Goodspeed, Charles Eliot, “The Story of Tamerlane,” Yankee Bookseller, Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1937, pp. 197-211. (Goodspeed provides an entertaining summary of his own purchase and sale of several copies of Tamerlane and Other Poems.)
  • Gordon, John D., “Edgar Allan Poe: A Catalogue of First Editions, Manuscripts, Autograph Letters from the Berg Collection,” New York: The New York Public Library, 1949, p. 5.
  • Harrison, James Albert, The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe, vol I - Biography, New York: T. Y Crowell, 1902, pp. 64-66. (Harrison incorrectly assumes that Thomas died in Springfield, Missouri.)
  • 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. 13-16.
  • 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. 13-19. (Reprinted, Millwood, New York: Kraus Reprint Co., 1977.) (Sotheby’s has a copy of Heartman’s bibliography which Heartman personally corrected in 1943-1945.)
  • Mabbott, Thomas Ollive, “Introduction,” Tamerlane and Other Poems, New York: The Facsimile Text Society by Columbia University Press, 1941. (This facsimile reproduces the Huntington copy.)
  • Mabbott, Thomas Ollive, “Digressions, C: Supplementary Notes on Tamerlane, 1827,” The Raven and Other Poems, New York: The Facsimile Text Society by Columbia University Press, 1942, pp. xxvi-xxvii. (Provides additional titles printed by Calvin F. S. Thomas and various miscellaneous corrections to the introduction of Mabbott’s 1941 facsimile of Tamerlane and Other Poems.)
  • Mabbott, Thomas Ollive, The Collected Works of Edgar Allan Poe, volume I: Poetry, Cambridge, Massachusetts: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1969.
  • 19th Century Bookshop sale Catalogue, The Poe Catalogue, Baltimore, 1992, p. 10. (Tamerlane and Other Poems is item 12. The price guide lists it only as “sold.”)
  • Quoth the Raven: Selections from the Susan Jaffe Tane Edgar Allan Poe Collection, 1997, pp. 8-11.
  • Randall, David A., The J. K. Lilly Collection of Edgar Allan Poe: An Account of Its Formation, Indiana: The Lilly Library, 1964, pp. 1-10. (This book carries, as a frontispiece, a supposed portrait of Poe which has since been shown not to be Poe at all. The resemblance, it must be admitted, is striking.)
  • Robertson, John W., Commentary on the Bibliography of Edgar A. Poe, San Francisco: Grabbhorn, 1934, pp. 64-65.
  • Rousack, J. Wynn, “ ‘Tamerlane’: 15-cent bomb to $123,000 gem,” The Sunday Sun (Baltimore), December 1, 1974, p. D1 and D3. (Comments on the purchase of the Regenstein Foundation copy.) (This article includes details of several copies of Tamerlane.)
  • Smyers, Virginia L., “Poe’s Tamerlane, 1827: Preliminary Census,” AB Bookman’s Weekly, LXXI, January 16, 1978, pp. 307-312. (This census is summarized and slightly corrected in the Southeby Catalogue of June 7, 1988.)
  • Southeby Auction Catalogue, Fine Books and Manuscripts: Poe’s Tamerlane, New York, June 7, 1988, item 213. (This catalogue includes a very detailed census of copies of Tamerlane and Other Poems. This census updates the one by V. L. Smyers. Tamerlane and Other Poems is the final item in this catalogue.)
  • Southeby Auction Catalogue, The Library of H. Bradley Martin: Highly Important American and Children’s Literature, New York, January 30 and 31, 1990, item 2191.
  • Starrett, Vincent, “Have You a Tamerlane in Your Attic?”, Saturday Evening Post, June 27, 1925.
  • Tane, Susan Jaffe and Gabriel Mckee, Evermore: The Persistence of Edgar Allan Poe, New York: The Golier Club, 2014, item 49.

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[S:0 - JAS] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Works - Editions - Tamerlane and Other Poems (1827)