Text: Edmund Clarence Stedman and George Edward Woodberry, “General Preface,” The Works of Edgar Allan Poe, Stone and Kimball, vol. I, 1894, pp. vii-xi


[page vii:]



THE works of Poe were collected by Dr. Rufus Wilmot Griswold, his literary executor, and published in three volumes by J. S. Redfield, New York, 1850. The edition, thus authorized, was protected until lately by copyrights owned by the publisher, and has remained substantially unchanged in its successive issues, although enlarged in later years; the papers added, and the few corrections made under the stimulus of the English editions of Mr. J. H. Ingram, should, perhaps, be specially referred to; but the edition is practically as Griswold left it, and should be known by his name. It was good enough for his own time; and, in view of the contemporary uncertainty of Poe’s fame, the difficulty of obtaining a publisher, and the fact that the editorial work was not paid for, little fault can justly be found with Griswold, who did secure what Poe in his lifetime could never accomplish — a tolerably complete collected edition [page viii:] of the tales, reviews, and poems. But after the lapse of nearly half a century something more may be exacted from those who have had the custody of a great writer’s works, and something more is due from those who care for the literature of the country. Poe’s fame has spread as widely through the world as that of any imaginative author of America; and longer neglect of the state of his text would lie discreditable to men of letters among us, now that his works have passed by law into the common property of mankind. With this conviction the present edition has been undertaken, in order to ascertain and establish as accurate and complete a text of his permanent writings as the state of the sources now permits.

The editors have been fortunate beyond expectation in the recovery of final corrections by Poe, made on the margin of his published volumes for the purpose of being incorporated in later editions. These manuscript notes are contained in Poe’s copies of the “Tales,” 1845, and the “Raven, and Other Poems,” 1845, recently bequeathed by James Lorimer Graham, Esq., to the Century Association, and of “Eureka,” lately on the shelves of William Evarts Benjamin, Esq. The volumes were in Griswold’s possession, but the changes indicated were not made by him, and are now for the first time [page ix:] embodied in the text. Mrs. Whitman’s copy of the “Broadway Journal,” with slight marginal corrections by Poe, found in the collection of Thomas J. McKee, Esq., has afforded a few verbal changes. The Duane copy of the “Southern Literary Messenger,” similarly revised by Poe, now in the possession of J. H. Whitty, Esq., has also been collated, but the collections there made represent an early state of the text. It is believed that these comprise all the extant manuscript sources affecting the final form of the text; and the editors beg here to express their deep sense of obligation to the owners of these documents, invaluable far the establishment of the text, and to thank them for the use of the volumes.

For the body of Poe’s works, however, the printed sources are final. In every case, except as mentioned in the NOTES, the editors have had recourse to the original issues, and have collated the various forms of the text in each republication during Poe’s life, whether in periodicals or in books; the last form having Poe’s authority has been followed, and given as the authentic text. In the prose no attempt has been made to show the nature of Poe’s revision, but a complete variorum is given of the poems. The quotations, book-titles, and all expressions in ancient or foreign languages [page x:] have been revised with a view solely to accuracy, and references have been more exactly and minutely given than in the original publication; the punctuation, and all that concerns typographical style, has been modified to accord with later usage and taste, and generally the editors have exercised free judgment in all matters not affecting the integrity of the text. Hundreds of errors have been corrected; and, though the editors cannot hope that all the original and accumulated faults have been amended, they have spared no pains to verify whatever was susceptible of any doubt. They desire to thank all who have assisted them in any way, and, in addition to the acknowledgments already made, particularly to own their obligations to the late Thomas J. McKee for the right to engrave the portrait that bears his name, and for the free use of his collection of Poeana; to the late W. M. Griswold for the use of the Poe-Griswold papers, from which many extracts are given in the MEMOIR, and to Robert Lee Traylor for the right to engrave the Shelton portrait.

In regard to the Tales comprised in the first five volumes of this edition, it is only necessary to add in this place that the main text is, in substance, that of the revision of 1844, which Poe made with the hope of publishing a complete collection in [page xi:] five volumes, but used only in the “Broadway Journal.” The generic title given to the Philadelphia edition of 1840, “Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque,” has been retained, as the characteriztic description always in Poe’s mind in referring to his Tales; but the whole collection has been separated into a few natural groups. One tale, hitherto included, the “Landscape Garden,” being bodily and identically the opening portion of the “Domain of Arnheim,” is omitted; and one tale, the “Elk,” is here added for the first time. “The Journal of Julius Rodman” is also now in its place among Poe’s works. Special prefaces are prefixed to the subsequent general divisions in later volumes, and to them and the NOTES the reader is referred for further detailed information.


NEW YORK, Oct. 28, 1894




In the 1903 reprint, the preface was reprinted, but now dated NEW YORK, October 1, 1902, and the following material was appended to the final paragraph:

On reviewing their work the editors feel assured that the present edition embodies Poe’s writings, both as to substance and form, in the way that he desired when he intrusted them to his literary executor, Doctor Griswold. It would be possible to expand the critical portion of his works indefinitely by collecting the large number of his early reviews, but nothing of value would thereby be added, as he himself included in his later notices all that was not purely contemporary and transitory in these; in the “Literati” specially, and its cognate pieces, he had summed up his lifelong critical work in the form in which he desired it to survive. It is with confidence, therefore, that the editors present this edition as complete and definitive.

The following prefatory note was added to the 1914 edition:


The publishers wish to acknowledge their obligation to Professor Woodberry, who has made use of the opportunity given by this definitive and permanent issue to re-examine the text with great care and minuteness. The result has been to confirm fully the course originally followed by Mr. Stedman and himself. Some verbal changes and corrections have been made; but, except in a few immaterial points, their critical opinions as expressed in the Notes and their decisions with regard to what constitutes Poe’s permanent writings and the correct text have been entirely sustained. This final review warrants the publishers in the belief that this will remain the authoritative edition of Poe’s Works.

The very thorough bibliography has been brought down to date in both its lists of English and foreign titles. A facsimile of a characteriztic page of Poe’s changes and interlineations has been included in the volume of poems, and the matter relating to the illustrative portraits has been carefully re-examined and re-arranged.



[S:0 - SW, 1894] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Works - General Preface (E. C. Stedman and G. E. Woodberry, 1894)