Text: Burton R. Pollin, “Introduction for Pinakidia,” The Collected Writings of Edgar Allan PoeVol. II: The Brevities (1985), pp. xi-xv (This material is protected by copyright)


[page xi:]



In the August 1836 issue of the Southern Literary Messenger, of which Poe had been the functioning if not the nominal editor for a year, he published a group of very short articles on literary, historical, and general cultural topics to which he gave the title of “Pinakidia.” In the Introduction he explained this as a classical Greek title for an “anthology,” and therefore suitable for the present “cullings” or excerpted tidbits from various compendia of “general literature” (Introduction to Pinakidia.) The whole collection received little attention in the press of the day save for the reprint of a few items in the New-Yorker magazine (see Introduction, note a [end]), nor could it be expected to arouse much interest, since as Poe initially said, it resembled many newspaper and magazine articles and also the learned fillers intended for incomplete columns. Indeed Poe himself had contributed about twenty of these prior to the issue containing the “Pinakidia,” as David K. Jackson showed in 1933.(1) Were they taken from a notebook or common-place book of memoranda, jotted down while reading, as Poe asserts? There is inconclusive evidence for the use of such a notebook.(2) The fact that so many of the 172 items come from a small number of clustering and repeatedly used sources might confirm this. On the other hand, the proximity of so many of the traced articles suggests that they have been copied wholesale out of a few of the most “mined” volumes themselves rather than from the transcriptions made over a course of months or years in a common-place book. Of the 173 articles (including the long Introduction as one) eight volumes contributed 110 items, or roughly 60%, with only ten more entries located as to their sources in seven more volumes (see the list in the section on “Sources,” in Introduction below). Poe must have considered this collection of “fillers” to be an extra contribution beyond his editing and book reviews, that would help to increase his $520 per year base pay to the total of “nearly $800” that he mentions in a letter to John P. Kennedy.(3) [page xii:]

The tone of Poe’s Introduction matches well that of the first 1844 installment of the Marginalia, in its irony, banter, and factitious erudition. It must have been intended to pique the curiosity of the “classical and general reader” of the Southern Literary Messenger and set him to the schoolboy game of searching for the sources of unidentified “cullings.” That Poe himself is one of the “audacious pilferers” whom he mocks in paragraph I is part of the joke, as is his possible word play on “original” which has its standard meaning of “fresh, unusual, and not copied” in sentence 1 of paragraph 3 and which may mean “primary or earliest” in sentence 3 (Introduction, note u). George Woodberry insisted upon inserting the word “not” before the word in the third sentence,(4) but he has overlooked Poe’s statement in the August 1835 issue of the Messenger about the need to use brief fillers: “It is customary to resort to selection ... Therefore ... we shall make use of original matter” (1.716; see the full text in the Introduction, note u). No dropped “not” can be read into so deliberate an editorial statement. The earlier practice by editors Heath and Sparhawk of “selection” of fillers from sources similar to those used by Poe in Pinakidia and also his own year-long practice as virtual editor(5) make it likely that Poe jestingly mocks numerous pseudo-erudite books for copying from compendia such as Disraeli’s(6) and then bluntly announces his intention to write an article so composed.

It was George Woodberry and E. C. Stedman, in their 1894-95 edition of Poe’s Works (which drops the Pinakidia), who used his Introduction to portray his general delight(7) in using these scraps of learning “at second — hand.” After the Harrison edition of 1902 made the text widely available, scholars began looking for the buried sources. In 1920 Earl L. Griggs, aided by Thomas O. Mabbott, traced “Five Sources of ... ‘Pinakidia“’ — four of them significant: Disraeli’s Curiosities of Literature, Bielfeld’s Universal Erudition, Bryant’s Mythology, and Montgomery’s Lectures on Literature.(8) Mabbott followed this with an inconspicuous announcement, in 1927, of Poe’s borrowings from the very rare anonymous Antediluvian Antiquities of 1829, discovered through a clue from Poe himself.(9) These “clues” playfully scattered by Poe would enable him to disclaim concealment if arraigned by hostile critics. Earlier F. C. Prescott and Margaret Alterton had followed a clue to August W. Schlegel’s [page xiii:] Lectures on Dramatic Art as a source, which led to David K. Jackson’s detecting in 1933 seven out of the derived eight Pinakidia articles.(10) A major missing piece has been fitted into the mosaic by Palmer C. Holt, who suitably suggests Poe’s need “to sustain the pose of classical scholar and Virginia gentlemen” through such citations and allusions in his reviews and tales as well as the ten instances here of classical lore from Henry Nelson Coleridge’s Introductions.(11) Finally, Edgar C. Knowlton showed that Poe’s Guez de Balzac, whom he once cited erroneously as author of the inordinately popular La Manière de bien Penser, was really Father Dominique Bouhours, a seventeenth century prototype of Disraeli in his Curiosities of Literature.(12) It contributed thirteen Pinakidia articles (nos. 102 — 114; see note to Pin 102). A few more origins, some of them presented here for the first time, can be seen in the “Sources” of the Pinakidia section below. Cognate with these are the Supplementary Pinakidia (see separate list) which were inserted by Poe as editor through 1836 or as contributor to the Messenger in 1848. It is likely that a few erudite “teasers,” such as the “Cinderella” article (Pin 56), will betray their origin in the future, but most of them are now known from the studies just cited or from the authors or titles casually mentioned by Poe (such as Gray and Dante in Pin 33). What distresses some scholars is the discovery of so many unnamed intermediary sources (as in Pin 32 and 34) for learned classical references. Must we include Poe himself in “the class of willful plagiarists ... who plunder recondite, neglected, or forgotten books” (M 198)? Certainly Poe’s defense might rest on the popularity and general circulation of several of his most frequent sources, such as Disraeli’s endlessly reprinted, reorganized, and re-edited Curiosities of Literature or Bielfeld’s First Principles of Universal Erudition. The charge of undue borrowing will need more inquiry for the larger and far more discursive series of the Marginalia.


The Pinakidia collection of learned notes was published in the Southern Literary Messenger of August 1836, vol 11, no. 9, pp. 573-82. It was ascribed to Edgar A. Poe in the index to the volume; likewise in his 8/19/36 letter to Hiram Haines, editor and publisher in Petersburg, Virginia, through the statement: “All published matter after the word Editorial [page 573] is my own” (Ostrom, Letters 99). A reference to the specific list of typographical errors will show how little care Poe, the functioning editor, took of his own article, which has the most errors of [page xiv:] all sections of the Brevities. Griswold did not include the article in his 1850-56 edition, doubtless through Poe’s directed omission, but many scholars (including Griggs, para. 1 of his AL study) have been misled by the insertion of an abridged set of seventy-odd Pinakidia items in the 1870s’ editions of the Redfield set of Poe’s Works, then still being lucratively published. The lack of a thorough study of the history of the Redfield edition into the 1880s makes it impossible to pinpoint the appearance of these and other pages of Poe’s works in an edition with stereotype pages, but one may hazard a conjecture. John H. Ingram, Poe’s zealous champion in London, was putting together his four-volume set, The Works of ... Poe, for publication in 1874-75. He had to use the “Griswold” text as the basis, but wished to add previously uncollected Poe material to differentiate his volumes from the Redfield edition. The recent arrival from America of Sarah Helen Whitman’s two volumes of the Broadway journal marked with Poe’s autograph enabled him to add “Secrets of a Magazine Prison House” and “Anastatic Printing,” and his search through the Southern Literary Messenger had turned up the Pinakidia. All three became “Addenda.”(13) For reasons of space-saving or by preference, Ingram selected some seventy-odd of the Pinakidia items for printing, and in turn all of the “Addenda” material was newly inserted by the editors of the Redfield edition in New York or by those who had bought the plates or the rights to the edition.(14) Therefore many sets of the posthumous Works were distributed for two decades with a defective collection of Pinakidia.

No attempt was made to establish and print a full canon of Poe’s works before that of Harrison, of 1902,(15) although George Woodberry’s and Clarence Stedman’s volumes were better edited than previous editions; yet the cavalier attitude of the editors toward the text enabled them to end their “Criticism” thus: “The Editors have omitted ... all passages from ‘Pinakidia’ ...(16)

James A. Harrison was supposed to establish the authentic text for the Pinakidia in his edition of The Complete Works. He regarded the set of Pinakidia articles as important in its service to Poe as the “store-house” for garnishing the pages of numerous tales, as evincing Poe’s “wide [page xv:] reading at twenty-seven,” and as preparing him for the Marginalia.(17) But his “faithful restoration” was flawed, first in confusing the order of ten articles (from Pinakidia 106 through 116) and second, in making many arbitrary corrections silently with no indications and in leaving several errors in the text. Of course, no notes of any sort were provided, according to the norm of his edition, even though greatly needed for the series. Most unexpected is the multiplicity of errors for a text that is relatively brief and printed in Poe’s own magazine.



[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page xi:]

1.  Jackson, “Poe Notes,” American Literature, 1933, 5.258-67. Hereafter, in the text and the notes, I shall usually cite the titles of the seven sections of The Brevities without quotation marks and shall use abbreviations explained in the list ending this Introduction.

2.  J. H. Whitty in Complete Poems of ... Poe (1911), p. 233, reported on the notebook’s being at one time in the possession of Poe’s dear friend Frederick W. Thomas, author of the unpublished and now lost “Recollections of ... Poe.” See [[Jackson, “Poe Notes,”]] p. 262 for confirmation from an SLM apprentice.

3.  See his letter of 11/22/1836 in Ostrom, Letters 81. See Ostrom on Poe’s “Income as Literary Entrepreneur,” PS, 1982, 15.1-7: He first received 80 cents a column, two to the page, and later $2.00 per page.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page xii:]

4.  See his biography of Poe (Boston, 1885), p. 96, and the alteration in his ed. of the Works, also his two-vol. Life (1909), 1.179; but he overlooks Poe’s statement about brief fillers: “It is customary to resort to selection. ... Therefore ... we shall make use of original matter” (1.716), q.v. in Pin Intro., note u.

5.  See Supplementary Pinakidia 1-28 and the notes to them.

6.  For this spelling of his name and for his popular works, see Pin Intro. t.

7.  See vol. 4, Tales, end-notes no. II, “On Poe’s Quotations, Book-Titles, and Footnotes.”

8.  See American Literature, 1929, 1.196-99. For fuller data on the works of each, used by Poe, see Pin Intro, j and t, Pin 27, 57.

9.  TOM, American Collector, 1927, 4.124-26; see Pin 2, note.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page xiii:]

10.  Jackson, see n. l, above, pp. 262-63; F. C. Prescott, Selections from the Critical Writings of Poe (1909), pp. 346-48, and Margaret Alterton and Hardin Craig, E. A. Poe: Representative Selections (1935), pp. 540-44.

11.  Holt, American Literature, 1962, 34.8-30.

12.  Poe Notes, 1971, 4.27-29. But Guez de Balzac is correctly cited elsewhere: cf. Pin 154, SP 25.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page xiv:]

13.  For the 4/2/1874 date and other details see n. 25 below. For the “Addenda” see Works, Ingram, ed., 3.493-507.

14.  My own late set of the Redfield ed. (N. Y.: A. C. Armstrong & Son, 1884), prints them thus: vol. 2, 506-20 (Pinakidia), 521-30 (“Some Secrets” and “Anastatic Printing”). This edition gives W. J. Widdleton, 1876, and W. C. Bush, 1882, as previous copyright holders. Griswold died in 1857 and could not have been involved in the shift in pages from one volume to another after 1859 or in these additions. A study of the history of the printing of the “Redfield” ed. is much needed.

15.  James A. Harrison, The Complete Works of ... Poe (N. Y.: T. Y. Crowell, 1902), 17 vols (I and 17 = life and letters), hereafter cited as “Harrison” or “H” without a period.

16.  The Works of ... Poe (Chicago: Stone and Kimball, 1894-95), 10 vols., reprinted by Scribner’s, 1914 (7.431).

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page xv:]

17.  Harrison, 14.vi-viii.




For a history of the Griswold edition, printed by Redfield and others, see Jeffrey A. Savoye, “Selecting for Posterity: Poe’s Early Editors and the Battle for a Definitive Collection,” eds. E. Esplin and M. Vale de Gato, Anthologizing Poe, Lehigh University Press, 2020, pp. 75-98.



[S:0 - BRP2B, 1985] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Editions - The Collected Writings of Edgar Allan Poe (B. R. Pollin) (Introduction for Pinakidia)