New York: Wiley and Putnam, 1845. First edition. Octavo (177 x 123 mm). Black morocco-grained skyver by Bennett of New York, titles in gilt on red morocco spine label, raised bands, double gilt fillets on spine and boards, turn-ins ruled in gilt, top edge gilt, marbled endpapers. Owenship inscription of A L Winslow pencilled on half-title, and 20th-century Christian Heuer pictorial bookplate to verso of front free endpaper. A trifle rubbed at corners, occasional light staining and finger-soiling; a remarkably well preserved copy. Bound with the half-title, but without the 2 leaves of advertisements (pp. [93-96]) and the publisher's eight-page catalogue.
First edition in book form of Poe's breakthrough poem, one of c. 750 copies only. Considered the single most famous American poem, The Raven was also Poe's greatest masterpiece. Inspired by early lyrics written by the English poetess Elizabeth Barrett Browning, to whom he dedicated the book, Poe composed a complex trochaic octometer to provide the poem with a hauntingly deranged musicality. Tapping into contemporary interest in sensational horror, Poe further drew together strikingly sensual images of a silk curtained chamber and a bust of Athena, atop which the Raven announced the death of Lenore with a single word: "Nevermore." Even before publication, Poe knew he had reached his literary pinnacle. To a friend he declared "I tell you it is the greatest poem ever written." It was true. Wiley & Putnam's release of The Raven paved the way for their publication of his other important works, including his Tales, a collection that introduced his pioneering detective fiction to a wider audience hungering for more of his dark work.
The Raven "made Poe's name known both in America and England, and brought him an immortality that by no other means could have been attained [and it] gave him fame as a poet such as no other American has received" (Robertson). A superb copy.
BAL 16147. Robertson 224-225. (Item #2992)