Sunday, November 13, 2005


Poe Conks Out

Just back from another week on the road, and while in NYC I was lucky enough to examine some splendid stuff in the Park Ave. bookshop of James Cummins. One scandalously entertaining item: a first edition embodiment of Edgar Allan Poe's plagiarism. And no, it's not a book of Gothic tales or poetry. It's a book on... um, seashells.

Here's the description from item #74 of the latest Cummins catalogue:

POE, Edgar Allan. The Conchologist's First Book: A System of Testaceous Malacology arranged expressly for the use of Schools.... Philadelphia: Published for the Author by Haswell, Barrington and Haswell [1839]....

Poe was hired by the publishers to produce an American version of Captain Thomas Brown's The Conchologist's Text-Book, a popular English textbook and standard in that field. Poe's The Conchlogist's First Book is mostly taken fropm Brown's text, without any credit. A charge of plagiarism was set against Poe. This was the only American publication of Poe's which went into a second edition during his lifetime.

The price? 1,750 clams.... (ahem)....

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