“Evermore: The Persistence of Poe” at the Grolier Club
The Grolier Club’s exhibition “Evermore: The Persistence of Poe” is devoted to one of the most influential authors of the nineteenth century, Edgar Allan Poe. On view from September 17 through November 22, “Evermore” showcases a wide array of materials drawn from Grolier member Susan Jaffe Tane’s personal collection, widely recognized as the finest Poe collection in private hands.
Co-curated by Ms. Tane and bibliographer and scholar Gabriel Mckee, “Evermore: The Persistence of Poe” presents an in-depth look at Poe’s life, his world, and his influence into the present day, with original manuscripts and letters by Poe, daguerreotypes, artifacts, first edition books, and unique material related to Poe’s family and friends. Also on display are a number of items that show Poe’s influence on American and world culture after his death, including artwork, comic books, movie posters, sound recordings, and toys.
Highlights of the exhibit include several recently discovered items never before shown in a public exhibition. Most notable is the only known manuscript copy of “The Conqueror Worm,” generally regarded as one of Poe’s best and bleakest poems. This copy was thought lost until its rediscovery in 2013.
An autograph letter written by Poe to author and editor James Russell Lowell is another newly discovered piece. In this letter, Poe writes to Lowell, editor of the Boston periodical The Pioneer, to offer him his short story “The Tell-Tale Heart.” Lowell accepted the piece, which made its first appearance a few weeks later in the first issue of The Pioneer (also included).
Recently unearthed artifacts of Poe’s life are shown here as well, most notably an engraved engagement ring given by Poe to his childhood sweetheart, Sarah Elmira Royster. Poe and Royster’s relationship ended shortly after he entered the University of Virginia in 1826. More than two decades later, the two reconnected, and in August 1849 they became engaged. But they never married: Poe died only two months later in Baltimore. The ring was kept by Poe’s sister Rosalie, and remained within the family and unknown to scholars until 2012.
A previously unknown portrait of Poe made from life is also on public view for the first time: a cut-paper silhouette of the author, made in Richmond by master silhouette artist William James Hubard. This portrait was owned by Nathaniel P. Willis, an associate of Poe, and was kept in private collections until its rediscovery in 2013.
Other highlights of the exhibition include the only complete manuscript of a tale (“Epimanes”) in private hands; first editions of Poe’s major works, and, most significantly, one of only two privately-held copies of Tamerlane and Other Poems; Poe’s annotated personal copies of two books, and other important association copies; two daguerreotypes of Poe; and a fragment of his coffin. There is also substantial primary material illustrating Poe’s life and influence, including autograph letters by his mother, Maria Clemm, and his sister, Rosalie Poe. Illustrated editions in the exhibition include an unparalleled copy of Mallarmé and Manet’s edition of Le Corbeau, widely considered the greatest 19th-century livre d’artiste; and important editions illustrated by such artists as Gustave Doré, Arthur Rackham, Edmund Dulac, and Aubrey Beardsley. There are also notable examples of later adaptations of Poe’s material in popular culture, such as original comic book art, movie posters, toys, sheet music, and ephemera.
The exhibition is accompanied by the publication of a new catalogue of the Tane collection: Evermore: The Persistence of Poe: The Edgar Allan Poe Collection of Susan Jaffe Tane. The 208-page, color illustrated volume, co-authored by Tane and Mckee, presents Poe’s life and literary afterlife as illuminated by objects in the Tane collection.
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