News | February 23, 2023

New Edgar Allan Poe Edition Binding Features Brick Dust from his Home

Arion Press

Fine artist book producer Arion Press has released a curated selection of poems and stories by Edgar Allan Poe in an edition equal to the 19th-century master of the macabre.

The two-volume set is notable on two counts. It presents a fresh, psychologically acute interpretation of Poe’s masterpiece The Raven through vivid images by artist Natalie Frank centering on the lost female love. And it uses the raw matter of Poe’s own life, physically incorporating pulverized bricks excavated from his New York City home into a binding that creepily recalls the immuring central to several of his tales.

Edgar Allan Poe earned his living writing stories for American magazines between 1830 and his unexpected death at the age of 40 in 1849. In his short lifetime he became the pre-eminent chronicler of the unquiet mind. Fourteen of these unnerving tales and four poems are collected in Arion’s presentation.

The two-volume edition features Frank’s inimitable drawings. The main volume in black-and-white images is reminiscent of Victorian vignettes, while the second, The Raven, is a companion volume in brilliant gouache and chalk pastel drawings focused for the first time on the flesh-and-blood woman whose loss inspired one of the most famous refrains in English literature, Nevermore.

Poe’s Phantasia is the third title in Arion Press’s 2022 offering of artist books and caps an exciting year of transformation at the Press. Last year it also launched two new series of artist talks and events at its workshop and gallery in the San Francisco Presidio, celebrating the power of art and literature to effect social change. Through its nonprofit arm, The Grabhorn Institute, the Press hosted numerous prominent artists and writers in conversation, including Laurie Anderson, Joyce Carol Oates, Alison Saar, Sandow Birk and Tobias Wolff, among many others.

This latest fine press edition was curated in collaboration with the director of the Edgar Allan Poe Museum in Richmond, Virginia, Chris Semtner, from whom the original bricks from Poe’s Manhattan townhouse were sourced, then pulverized. The brick dust, the color of dried blood, was then formed into paper medallions for the cover of the Fine Press edition or moulded into three-dimensional cameo busts of the writer inset on the cover of Deluxe edition copies.

The edition also includes a commentary on Frank’s artwork by Ed Schad, Curator and Publications Manager at The Broad in Los Angeles, who describes the New York-based artist as rapidly becoming “one of 19th century literature’s most astute interpreters”. Frank is renowned for her illustrated editions of Tales of the Brothers Grimm, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice and The Story of O, as well as sets and costumes for a Grimm adaptation at Ballet Austin (Texas).

The edition is available in either the traditional Fine Press binding presented in handmade slipcases, limited to 250 copies, or the Deluxe edition, limited to 50 copies, which is presented in lidded boxes that protect the bas-relief cameos and accompanied by an additional color print of one of Frank’s seven images for The Raven.