New York: Harper & Brothers, 1884. 1st Edition. Elephant folio, publisher's beveled gray cloth decoratively stamped in white, black and gold, brown endpapers, all edges gilt, fragments of original illustrated paperboard box and plain paper dust jacket.
First edition of popular French Romantic illustrator Gustave Doré's celebrated take on Poe's classic narrative poem of obsessive mourning and the pathetic fallacy. "The Raven," originally published in 1845, established Poe's name, even if it brought him little money. It was rampantly reprinted, imitated, and parodied, with its influence on the popular imagination felt well into the 20th century. It also inspired numerous artists and illustrators, then and now, including John Tenniel, Édouard Manet, Edmund Dulac, Harry Clarke, Lorenzo Mattotti, Ralph Stedman, and others. Among the most lavish visual interpretations of the poem, however, is this one, by Doré, produced for the Christmas market, featuring over two dozen large-format steel engravings. Doré, who had illustrated bestselling editions of works by Dante, Milton, Coleridge, and Tennyson, among others, completed his drawings for "The Raven" just weeks before his death. The results were sui generis among his work, with the French artist's dark Romanticism fueled by the American poet's exquisitely morbid cast of mind. "Doré’s engravings capture with piercing precision the heart of Poe’s poem, that bewitching interplay between the light toward which we reach in the grip of longing and the darkness into which longing plunges the psyche when it becomes a nightmarish fixation" (Maria Popova, www.themarginalian.org). With a preface by American poet and essayist Edmund C. Stedman; title page designed by American symbolist painter Elihu Vedder. Christmas gift inscription dated 1884 in sepia ink to initial blank. Corners gently banged, a few small dents to fore-edges of boards, narrow strip of marginal dampstaining to approximately last sixteen leaves (not affecting images). Remnants of original plain paper dust jacket and original illustrated paperboard publisher's gift box. Cloth remarkably fresh; a near fine copy of a landmark of 19th-century American book production. Item #7221