New on the second floor of the Edgar Allan Poe House is the exhibit “Poe in Print.” The exhibit features reproductions from rare books and periodicals in the Susan Jaffe Tane Collection of Edgar Allan Poe. An exhibition of original materials from the Tane Collection is on view at the George Peabody Library, from October 4, 2016 through February 5, 2017.
Edgar Allan Poe was both lucky and unlucky when it came to publication. He was lucky because technological advances in the publishing industry in the 1820s, ’30s, and ’40s made it easier to get published. He was unlucky because these same advances also created a lot of economic insecurity.
Steam power and new steel production techniques developed in the 1800s made it possible to build bigger, faster printing presses that lowered the cost of printing. Cheaper printing meant more books, magazines, and newspapers, sold at a lower price, reaching more readers. More readers and more publishing venues created, in turn, a need for content to fill the pages—a great opportunity for writers. But there were also many risks. Magazines paid by the page, so writers had to churn out a steady stream of new material. And, despite the technological developments that made printing more efficient, it was hard for publishers to attract enough paying customers to break even. New publishing ventures might operate for a few years, then go out of business… leaving writers suddenly without a source of income.
Poe adapted to this unstable situation by becoming proficient in many genres. He sent tales and poems to magazines and newspapers, as well as book reviews and essays—whatever was needed. He published his own books when he could, and worked as an editor for several magazines. Poe was a savvy and inventive player in the publishing world of his time. In this exhibit, you’ll see reproductions of Poe’s work in magazines, newspapers, and books published during his lifetime.