Edgar Allan PoeToday Edgar Allan Poe is a celebrated pioneer of the mystery genre and leading figure in the American Romantic movement; however he spent most of his life facing poverty, debatable literary success and addiction.

Poe was born to actors Elizabeth Arnold Hopkins Poe and David Poe Jr. in 1809, but within two years his father had abandoned the family and his mother had died of tuberculosis. After being taken in by the wealthy Allan family (who eventually disowned him), Poe attempted an early literary career under the pseudonym Henri Le Rennet before joining the army to escape gambling debts.

His first work of poetry Tamerlane and Other Poems was published in 1827 with a print run of only 50 copies; it was attributed to merely “a Bostonian,” it was not until the publication of The Raven nearly 20 years later that Poe became a household name. Despite his limited success during his lifetime he was one of the first American authors to attempt to subsist on writing alone.

The Raven

On the eve of his death in 1849, Poe was discovered delirious in the street wearing strange clothes, obituaries attributed his demise to “congestion of the brain” a euphemism for death by disreputable cause. Speculation has continued to this day including brain cancer, epilepsy, cholera, diabetes, syphilis, heart disease and rabies. All medical records have been lost.

For the past 50 years a secretive visitor has called on Poe’s grave in Baltimore on the anniversary of the author’s death. Dressed in black with a silver cane, the figure arrives in the early morning leaving three red roses and a bottle of cognac. The visitor has rarely been photographed and their identity never revealed.

Listen to Christopher Walken reading The Raven

Ten most expensive Edgar Allan Poe books ever sold on AbeBooks:

The Raven - $5,000

Contained in the original publisher’s box this 23 page book includes Poe’s classic poem with commentary by Edmund Stedman and 26 full page plates by Gustave Dore.

The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket - $4,500

Leaf ads dated May 1838 and rebound circa 1920s this first edition prose book is his only book-length work of fiction.

Eureka: A Prose Poem - $2,000

First edition limited to 500 copies written in 1848. Poe’s last major work and his longest non fiction work which attempts to explain the universe.

The Raven - $1,725

Bound by Daniel Kelm and Sarah Pringle with an embossed raven on the cover. A completely redesigned version of CheloniidaePress’ first book originally published in 1980. Includes nine wood engravings by Alan James Robinson. Special Binder’s copy limited to 25 copies. Signed by both Kelm and Robinson.

The Poetical Works - $1,588

Includes Preface by the editor (James Hennay). Published in 1852, the first printing of Poe's Poetical Works in England.

The Works of Edgar Allan Poe - $1,575

Four volumes which include a preface by Maria Clemm (Poe’s mother-in-law).

The Works of Edgar Allan Poe - $1,496

Edited by John H. Ingram. The Standard edition in four volumes. First edition.

The Works of Edgar Allan Poe - $1,275

Newly collected and edited with a memoir, critical introductions and notes by Edmund Clarence Stedman George Woodberry. First edition of this 10 volume set.

The Raven - $1,250

First edition from 1884 with comment by Edmund Stedman, illustrations by Gustave Dore.

Bells and Other Poems - $1,045

First edition with 28 illustrated colour plates by Edmund Dulac. Bells was first published in 1849 after Poe’s death in Seatrain’s Union Magazine.