Text: Edgar Allan Poe, “Prospectus of the Penn Magazine,” broadside, August 1840









TO THE PUBLIC. — Since resigning the conduct of The Southern Literary Messenger, at the commencement of its third year, I have had always in view the establishment of a Magazine which should retain some of the chief features of that Journal, abandoning or greatly modifying the rest. Delay, however, has been occasioned by a variety of causes, and not until now have I found myself at liberty to attempt the execution of the design.

I will be pardoned for speaking more directly of The Messenger. Having in it no proprietary right, my objects too being at variance in many respects with those of its very worthy owner, I found difficulty in stamping upon its pages that individuality which I believe essential to the full success of all similar publications. In regard to their permanent influence, it appears to me that a continuous, definite character, and a marked certainty of purpose, are desiderata of vital importance, and only attainable where one mind alone has the general direction of the undertaking. Experience has rendered obvious, what might indeed have been demonstrated a priori; that in founding a Magazine of my own lies my sole chance of carrying out to completion whatever peculiar intention I may have entertained.

To those who remember the early days of the Southern periodical in question it will be scarcely necessary to say that its main feature was a somewhat overdone causticity in its department of Critical Notices of new books. The Penn Magazine will retain this trait of severity in so much only as the calmest yet sternest sense of justice will permit. Some years since elapsed may have mellowed down the petulance without interfering with the rigor of the critic. Most surely they have not yet taught him to read through the medium of a publisher’s will, nor convinced him that the interests of letters are unallied with the interests of truth. It shall be the first and chief purpose of the Magazine now proposed to become known as one where may be found at all times, and upon all subjects, an honest and a fearless opinion. It shall be a leading object to assert in precept, and to maintain in practice the rights, while in effect it demonstrates the advantages, of an absolutely independent criticism — a criticism self-sustained; guiding itself only by the purest rules of Art; analyzing and urging these rules as it applies them; holding itself aloof from all personal bias; acknowledging no fear save that of outraging the right; yielding no point either to the vanity of the author, or to the assumptions of antique prejudice, or to the involute and anonymous cant of the Quarterlies, or to the arrogance of those organized cliques which, hanging like nightmares upon American literature, manufacture, at the nod of our principal booksellers, a pseudo-public-opinion by wholesale. These are objects of which no man need be ashamed. They are purposes, moreover, whose novelty at least will give them interest. For assurance that I will fulfil them in the best spirit and to the very letter, I appeal with confidence to the many thousands of my friends, and especially of my Southern friends, who sustained me in the Messenger, where I had but a very partial opportunity of completing my own plans.

In respect to the other features of the Penn Magazine, a few words here will suffice. It will endeavour to support the general interests of the republic of letters, without reference to particular regions; regarding the world at large as the true audience of the author. Beyond the precincts of literature, properly so called, it will leave in better hands the task of instruction upon all matters of very grave moment. Its aim chiefly shall be to please; and this through means of versatility, originality, and pungency. It may be as well here to observe that nothing said in this Prospectus should he construed into a design of sullying the Magazine with any tincture of the buffoonery, scurrility, or profanity, which are the blemish of some of the most vigorous of the European prints. In all branches of the literary department, the best aid, from the highest and purest sources, is secured.

To the mechanical execution of the work the greatest attention will be given which such a matter can require. In this respect it is proposed to surpass, by very much, the ordinary Magazine style. The form will nearly resemble that of The Knickerbocker; the paper will be equal to that of The North American Review; the pictorial embellishments will be numerous, and by the leading artists of the country, but will be introduced only in the necessary illustration of the text.

The Penn Magazine will be published in Philadelphia, on the first of each month, and will form, half yearly, a volume of about 500 pages. The price will be $5 per annum, payable in advance, or upon the receipt of the first number, which will be issued on the first of January, 1841. Letters addressed to the Editor and Proprietor,




The broadside is printed on a single large, sheet, folded to form 4 pages, with each page measuring 12 1/2 x 8 inches.

This prospectus is reproduced in facsimile in Jacob Blanck’s Bibliography of American Literature, Vol. 7, 1983, between pp. 116 and 117, entry No. 16134B.

This prospectus is substantively like the version of June 1840, with mostly minor changes in phrasing. A number of additional sentences appear in the third paragraph.

Poe sent copies of this prospectus to William Poe (August 14, 1840, presumed lost), Washington Poe (August 15, 1840, presumed lost), Lucian Minor (August 18, 1840, presumed lost), Joseph B. Boyd (August 20, 1840, Historical Society of PA), John Tomlin (September 16, 1840, Huntington Library), Pliny Earle (October 10, 1840, presumed lost), and Frederick W. Thomas (November 23, 1840, presumed lost). In a letter of June 21, 1841, Poe suggests that he may also have sent a prospectus to John P. Kennedy. Others were likely sent, although we have no certain record of them.


[S:1 - broadsheet, 1840 (fac)] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Works - Misc - Prospectus of the Penn Magazine]