The Conchologist’s First Book


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This volume was first issued about mid-April of 1839. (The Philadelphia Saturday Courier of April 20, 1839 includes a brief notice about the book “now before us.” The Daily National Intelligencer, a newspaper printed in Washington DC, has a letter in the issue for May 14, 1839. The letter includes the statement: “EDGAR POE, who was a clever writer in WHITES’S Richmond Messenger not long since, is just out with a very pleasant book on conchology.” (p. 3, a letter titled “Metropolitan Gossipings,” and dated May 10, 1839). A second edition was dated on the title page as 1840 (available about September 11, 1839), and a third (without Poe’s name) appeared in 1845. The number of copies printed is uncertain.

The Conchologist’s First Book   (1839, 1840 and 1845)

 

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Bibliographic Data:

12mo (6 7/8 in x 4 1/4 in also 7 1/4 in x 4 3/8 in). Pages [1] - 156, with 12 lithographed plates, colored in some copies. (The 1992 catalogue of the 19th Century Shop includes a possibly unique 1840 edition with colored plates.)


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Census of Copies:

There are so many surviving copies of these volumes that a complete listing is impractical and unnecessary. This census records copies of special interest. The provenance of each entry is established as authoritatively as possible, given the sketchy and often convoluted bits of information available. In nearly all case, the chain of owners has gaps, especially among the early owners, whose names are generally known only if the owner left an inscription.

  • Private collector, New York. (Presumed to be Poe’s own copy. This is an 1839 edition, with uncolored lithographic plates, with plate 3 reading “Parts of Shells.” This copy includes one sentence added to the end of the preface, and numerous minor corrections throughout, all presumably made by Poe.) The list of prior owners is as follows: 1. Max Hartzof (1875-1942), New York bookdealer (this was found in his shop by noted bibliographer Jacob Blanck); 2. Frank J. Hogan (1877-1944), Washington, D.C. (purchased through David Randall); 3. H. Bradley Martin (1906-1988), New York collector (purchased on January 23-24, 1945 as part 1, lot 572, for $2,800); 4. Private Collector (The collection of H. Bradley Martin was sold at an auction by Southeby’s on January 30 and 31, 1990.)
  • Stephen Wakeman (current location unknown). (The sale catalogue for the Wakeman collection lists this 1840 edition as “FREDERICK LOCKER’S [Frederick Locker-Lampson (1821-1895] COPY, with bookplate. With corrections (in pencil) in a hand that much resembles Poe’s). This copy was sold as item 943 on April 29, 1924 for $8. (Stephen Jay Gould notes that he purchased a copy of the Conchologist’s First book with numerous corrections and notes. Gould argues, quite plausibly, that Wyatt sold these books as part of his lectures and that the notes were made by one of his students. The Wakeman copy may be no more than another such copies.)

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Bibliography:

  • American Art Association Auction Catalogue, The Stephen H. Wakeman Collection of Books of Nineteenth Century American Writers, April 1924 (item 943).
  • Blanck, Jacob, “Edgar Allan Poe,” Bibliography of American Literature; volume 7: James Kirke Paulding to Frank Richard Stockton, New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1983, p. 116-117. (Volume 7 is edited and completed by Virginia L. Smyers and Michael Winship.) (This book is item 16131 (1839), 16132 (1840). The 1845 edition is mentioned in a note to 16132.)
  • Gould, Stephen Jay, “Poe’s Greatest Hit,” Natural History, CII, No. 7, July 1993, pp. 10-19.
  • Heartman, Charles F and James R. Canny, A Bibliography of First Printings of the Writings of Edgar Allan Poe, Hattiesburg, Mississippi, 1943, pp. 41-44. (Reprinted, Millwood, New York: Kraus Reprint Co., 1977.)
  • 19th Century Bookshop sale Catalogue, The Poe Catalogue, Baltimore, 1992, pp. 34-35. (Three copies of the first edition of The Conchologist’s First Book are given as items 59-61. Three more copies of the second edition are given as items 63-65. The price guide lists it values varing from $400-2,200 for the first editions and $350-1,800 for the second editions. This catalogue also lists three copies of Thomas Brown’s textbook on conchology as items 62, 66 and 67.)
  • Parke-Bernet Galleries, Inc. Auction Catalogue, The Frank J. Hogan Library: Part One - American Authors, First Editions, Autograph Lettes, Manuscripts, January 23 and 24, 1945 (item 572). (This auction catalogue includes a facsimile of the final page of the preface, with Poe’s added note. It also lists the variant corrections, presumably also in Poe’s hand.) 
  • Quoth the Raven: Selections from the Susan Jaffe Tane Edgar Allan Poe Collection, 1997, pp. 34-35.
  • Southeby Auction Catalogue, The Library of H. Bradley Martin: Highly Important American and Children’s Literature, New York, January 30 and 31, 1990, items 2197-2200.

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[S:0 - JAS] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Works - Editions - The Conchologist’s First Book (1839)