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Edgar Allan Poe Signed Receipt Likely for Printing of "The Raven" -- An Exceptional Literary Rarity

An autograph note signed by Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849), handsomely displayed alongside two portraits framed behind glass. The signed receipt appears at bottom and is engrossed entirely in Poe's hand as: "New - York: April 16./45. Received of John Bisco three dollars on a/c of Southern L. Messenger. Edgar A. Poe." The receipt shows expected light folds and a few pinholes, else near fine. Remnants of a seal can be seen in the lower left corner. The sight size of the receipt is 7" x 1.5." Two portraits of Poe are framed above the receipt. The first is a sepia colored carte de visite, while the second is after the 1845 "Graham's Magazine" portrait of a young Poe sans moustache, only the second portrait of the author ever published. Expected wear to the frame. The overall framed size 14.25" x 14.75" x .75."

Here, Edgar Allan Poe acknowledges receipt of $3 from John Bisco on behalf of the "Southern Literary Messenger," a Richmond, Virginia-based literary journal which Poe had edited in the 1830s. This was payment for allowing the "Southern Literary Messenger" to publish Poe's wildly popular poem “The Raven,” first printed elsewhere in January 1845, along with other Poe works. We cannot prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that this is definitive, but nor can it be proven that it was not for "The Raven." The timing also seems to support the former assertion.

In early February 1845, Poe wrote to Benjamin Blake Minor, editor and publisher of the "Southern Literary Messenger," asking him to countermand the magazine's usual rule against reprints. Editors David Kelly Jackson and Dwight Thompson in "The Poe Log: A Documentary Life of Edgar Allan Poe, 1809-1849" (Boston: G.K. Hall & Co., 1987) write that Poe wanted "The Raven" to be published within that particular periodical to take advantage of "'the beautiful typography of the Messenger.’”

The "Southern Literary Messenger" printed “The Raven” in its March issue, introducing it by stating: “The following poem first appeared, we think, in the 'Evening Mirror'; though intended for the 'American Review'. It has since been frequently republished with the highest approbation. Still we take pleasure in presenting it to our readers, who must remember with the delight many of the contributions of Mr. Poe to the 'Messenger.'”

 Poe had recently become co-editor of "The Broadway Journal," a short-lived New York City newspaper published by John Bisco, which Poe would later purchase. The chronically impecunious author evidently found it convenient to have Bisco serve as middleman in these transactions; Bisco provided several payments on behalf of the "Southern Literary Messenger" in April 1845. The "Southern Literary Messenger" announced in its April issue that “we have engaged the services of Mr. Poe; who will contribute monthly a critique raisonée of the most important forthcoming works in this Country and in Europe.” In the end, Poe only submitted two reviews for the May issue of the magazine, and aspirations of becoming a more regular contributor did not materialize.

Poe wrote in the "Broadway Journal" that subscribers of the "Southern Literary Messenger" "are almost without exception the elite, both as regards wealth and intellectual culture, of the Southern aristocracy, and its corps of contributors are generally men who control the public opinion of the Southerners.”

Poe manuscripts connected with the publication of “The Raven,” even by attribution, are of the greatest rarity.

This item comes with a Certificate from John Reznikoff, a premier authenticator for both major 3rd party authentication services, PSA and JSA (James Spence Authentications), as well as numerous auction houses.


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