Exploring the collections of the Mercantile Library:
A Master Poet of the
Mysterious and Macabre
"Ye who read are still among the living, but I who write shall have long since gone my way into the region of shadows. For indeed strange things shall happen, and many secret things be known, and many centuries shall pass away, ere these memorials be seen of men…"
From Edgar Allan Poe’s Shadow-A Parable (1835)
Illustration from Edgar Allan Poe: A Critical Biography by Arthur Hobson Quinn. 
This crayon portrait was made in the months leading up to Poe’s untimely death.
 
From the Special Collections of the St. Louis Mercantile Library.
Today marks 212 years since the birth of Edgar Allan Poe (January 19, 1809 - October 7, 1849), one of the most recognizable literary figures of the 19th century. Much like the ghostly figures of his prose, he lives on and continues to influence - and haunt, if you like - generations of writers and readers of the macabre. He was a poet, essayist, novelist, editor, literary critic, and lecturer. He wrote fiction and nonfiction alike, and his work appeared in bound collections, magazines, annuals, and periodicals. He was viewed by many contemporaries as a nitpicking editor and literary critic; this earned him the nickname “the man with the tomahawk,” along with a few enemies. Through it all, nothing distinguished him more than his predilection for horror and suspense. He was a pioneer in the science fiction genre and in detective stories, serving as an inspiration for H.P. Lovecraft, H.G. Wells, and most famously, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
 
Poe’s untimely death, just as his life’s works, is shrouded in mystery to this day. Also shrouded in mystery is the peculiar legend that at least at some point in its history, the Mercantile Library possessed Poe’s headstone. While the Mercantile may not actually hold Edgar Allan Poe’s headstone, we do have plenty of his published handiwork -  in The American Whig Review, Sartain’s Union Magazine, and The Southern Literary Messenger, which he edited from December 1835 to January 1837. These periodicals can be found in the Mercantile Library Special Collections.

 
- Alyssa Persson, Aubash Collections Access Librarian
The Raven, one of the most renowned poems of all time, published in the American Whig Review in February 1845. From the Special Collections of the St. Louis Mercantile Library.
Poe was the editor of The Southern Literary Messenger from December 1835 to January 1837.
From the Special Collections of the St. Louis Mercantile Library.
One of Poe’s final poems The Bells was published in Sartain’s Union Magazine, November 1849. It was one of three poems published posthumously in the year of his death - the other two being Annabel Lee and El Dorado. From the Special Collections of the St. Louis Mercantile Library.
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