Video of the Week... Edgar Allan Poe and 'the rarest book in America'

Today in history - January 19, 1809 - saw the birth of a writer who became a key part of the American Romantic movement, was one of the earliest American practitioners of the short story and is even credited with inventing the detective-fiction genre.

The writer in question is none other than Edgar Allan Poe - a fine example of an historical figure from life through to death fascinates historians and collectors alike. This was demonstrated in Christie's New York in December 2009...

Edgar Allan Poe The Raven First Edition
Poe's The Raven, $182,000

There, a book by Poe sold for a $662,500. It wasn't The Raven - often considered Poe's masterwork - but a collection of poems written when he was just 13. Inspired by Byron, the precocious teenager had tried to launch his literary career after moving back to Boston, the city of his birth.

"You could probably say it's the Holy Grail of 19th-century American literature or American poetry," says Francis Wahlgren, rare books specialist at Christie's. Aside from its provenance, the books rarity was also a contributing factor to its value...

"It's the rarest book in American literature," said Susan Jaffe Tane around the time of the sale. Tane is a New York rare-book collector who owns the only other copy of Tamerlane in private hands.

Thanks to the life and legacy of Poe, the market value of his rare first edition works is assured - and a great alternative investment source. Elsewhere, a copy of Poe's The Raven from the William E Self library brought $182,000, beating an expected sale price of $100,000-150,000.

To mark the birth of Edgar Allan Poe, our Video of the Week is a short documentary examining the writer's life and continuing legacy which continue to inspire success on the collectors' markets.


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