Text: Edgar Allan Poe, “Prospectus of the Penn Magazine,” The Columbia Spy (Columbia, PA), June 20, 1840





TO THE PUBLIC. — Since resigning the conduct of the Southern Literary Messenger, at the commencement of its third year, I have constantly held in view the establishment of a Magazine which should retain some of the chief features of that journal, abandoning the rest. Delay, however, has been occasioned by a variety of causes, and not until now have I felt fully prepared to execute the intention.

I will be pardoned for speaking more directly of the Messenger. Having in it no proprietary right, my objects too, in many respects, being at variance with those of its very worthy owner, I found difficulty in stamping upon its pages that individuality which I believe essential to the perfect success of all similar publications. In regard to their permanent interest and influence, it has appeared to me that a continuous and definite character, with a marked certainty of purpose, was of the most vital importance; and these desiderata, it is obvious, can never be surely attained where more than one mind has the general direction of the undertaking. This consideration has been an inducemnt to found a Magazine of my own as the only chance of carrying out to full completion whatever peculiar designs I may have entertained.

To those who remember the early years of the Messenger it will be scarcely necessary to say that its main feature was somewhat overdone causticity in the department of critical notices. The Penn Magazine will retain this trait of severity in so much only as the calmest and sternest sense of literary justice will permit. One or two years, since elapsed, may have mellowed down the petulance without interfering with the rigor of the critic. Most surely they have not yet taught him to read through the medium of a publisher's interest, nor convinced him of the impolicy of speaking the truth. This is a purpose of which no man need be ashamed. It is one, moreover, whose novelty at least will give it interest. For assurance that I will fulfil it in its best spirit and to the very letter, I appeal with confidence to the many thousands of my friends, and especially of my Southern friends, who sustained me in the Messenger, where I had but a partial opportunity of completing my own plans.

In respect to the other general features of the Penn Magazine, a very few words here will suffice. Upon matters of very grave moment, it will leave the task of instruction in better hands. Its aim, chiefly, shall be to please; and this through means of versatility, originality and pungency. It must not be supposed, however, that the intention is never to be serious. There is [[a]] species of grave writing, of which the spirit is novelty and vigor, and the immediate object the enkindling of the imagination. In such productions, belonging to the loftiest regions of literature, the journal shall abound. It may be as well here to observe, that nothing said in this prospectus should he construed into a design of sullying the Magazine with any tincture of the buffoonery, scurrility, or profanity, which are the blemish of some of the most vigorous of the European prints. In all branches of the literary department, the best aid, from the highest and purest source, is secured.

To the mechanical execution of the work the greatest attention will be given which such a matter can require. In this respect, it is proposed to surpass, by very much, the ordinary Magazine style. The form will nearly resemble that of the Knickerbocker. The paper will be equal to that of the North American Review. The pictoral embellishments will be numerous, and by the leading artists of the country, but will be only introduced in the necessary illustration of the text.

The Penn Magazine will be published in Philadelphia on the first of each month, and form, half yearly, a volume of about five hundred pages. The price will be $5 per annum, payable in advance, or upon the receipt of the first number, which will be issued on the 1st of January, 1841. Letters addressed to the Editor and Proprietor,




This prospectus is reproduced in facsimile on the back of a menu from a special dinner held by the Edgar Allan Poe Club in Philadelphia. The dinner was in recognition of the 125th anniversary of Poe's birthday, Janaury 19, 1934. The original of the Columbia Spy, from which the facsimile is taken, was presumably part of the collection of Richard Gimble. The prospectus appears to be at the top of a column on the back page of the newspaper. The original is printed in a very narrow, newspaper-style column, a format which has not been reproduced in the current text.


[S:1 - CS, 1840 (fac)] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Works - Misc - Prospectus of the Penn Magazine]