The “Ultima Thule” Daguerreotype


Engraving of Edgar Allan Poe

Woodcut engraving of the “Ultima Thule” Daguerreotype of Edgar Allan Poe.

This very fine woodcut engraving of Edgar Allan Poe, by Timothy Cole, accompanied an article on Poe by E. C. Stedman in Scribner’s Monthly for May 20 1880. It reproduces the daguerreotype dubbed “Ultima Thule” (“Ultimate Limits”) by Sarah Helen Whitman (Whitman to Ingram, November 13, 1874, reprinted in Miller, Poe’s Helen Remembers, p. 319).

The picture shows Poe at a physical and emotional low point in his life. As such, it is an unfair representation. S. H. Whitman herself referred to it as “the sombre & tragic portrait” (Whitman to Ingram, October, 25, 1875, Miller, Poe’s Helen Remembers, p. 348).

The original daguerreotype was taken in Providence, Rhode Island in November of 1848. It was last seen in the 1860s and is now presumed lost. At least five copies are known to exist. (Deas, Portraits, p. 38-40).



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