Rare Copy of Poe's Tamarlane to be Auctioned at Christies's Tomorrow

Posted on December 3, 2009

A rare copy of Edgar Allan Poe's first published work, Tamarlane and Other Poems, is expected to fetch a high price at auction tomorrow. Dubbed the "black tulip of American publishing," the book was published in 1827 by Poe under the name "a Bostonian." There were between 40-50 copies of the book published and only 12 are believed to exist today.

Christie's, which is auctioning a stained and frayed copy in New York, said the book could set a record price for American literature. Poe wrote the poems, inspired by the work of Byron, as he tried to launch his literary career after moving from his childhood home in Virginia to Boston, the city of his birth. He had at the time been trying to distance himself from his foster father, John Allan, in Richmond, Virginia, with whom he had a difficult relationship.

The book was published in complete obscurity, paid for entirely by the author and printed by a man who normally produced flyers and labels. When he later re-published the poems under his own name, Poe apologised for their quality and said they had never been intended for publication. A copy of the original book did not surface until more than 25 years after it was published, prompting some poetry experts at the time to claim it had never existed.

The elderly owner of the book is liquidating his rare book collection so that his children won't have to do the upkeep. The book is expected to fetch between $500,000 to $700,000 at auction.

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