A quaint and curious volume of [not-so-]forgotton lore

Houghton Library Blog 2014-03-18

This post is part of an ongoing series featuring items from the newly acquired Santo Domingo collection.

This 1882 volume of Poe’s poetry and essays, accompanied by biographical information and commentary on the poems, is a fine example of the publishers’ cloth bindings of its period. In response to broadening literacy and therefore increasing demand, publishers in the early 19th century began producing books with reinforced cloth bindings; in earlier generations, publishers had provided only loose sheets or plain boards intended to be bound by the owner. As these cloth bindings became the norm, publishers adapted their bindings to the styles of the times, producing ornate decorative cloth, enhanced with stamping in blind and in various colors, a wide array of grain patterns, and various illustrative techniques. Such covers both attracted buyers and justified their position alongside the fine leather bindings of previous generations.

The Poe volume is ornate indeed, decorated elaborately in gilt and black over a green pebble-grained field. The filigreed panel in the center of the front cover gives as much prominence to Moxon’s popular poets, the series to which the book belongs, as to the author himself.

The poetical works of Edgar Allen Poe. London : Ward, Lock, & Co., [1882?] AC8.P7524.B882p.

Thanks to rare book cataloger Ryan Wheeler for contributing this post.