Newly discovered Edgar Allan Poe manuscripts will be revealed in a major exhibit at Richmond, Virginia's Edgar Allan Poe Museum from April 26 to July 11, 2012. Among the recently uncovered pieces are four letters and the only known manuscript for Poe's important early poem "To Helen," which was located last month in the album of one of Poe's cousins.
Opening April 26 in honor of the Poe Museum's 90th anniversary, the exhibit From Poe's Quill: The Letters and Manuscripts of Edgar Allan Poe will showcase these recent finds alongside dozens of rare Poe manuscripts gathered from seven different public and private collections across the country. According to the Poe Museum's Curator Chris Semtner, "This is the kind of exhibit that comes around only once in a generation. Because Poe's manuscripts were not highly valued during his brief life, many have been lost or dispersed over time, making them very rare today. Given that, it is remarkable that this show will feature such items as the only complete Poe short story in private hands, the earliest privately owned Poe manuscript, and even a letter from Poe to Washington Irving."
One of the show's highlights will be the recently discovered manuscript for "To Helen," which represents a unique and previously unknown version of poem's first stanza. The piece was written in the album of Poe's cousin Amelia Poe of Baltimore, which was given to the Poe Museum in 1930 by Mrs. Stewart Woodward, but the poem was not found until last month during a recent cataloging and digitization project. Since Poe is known to have written poetry in the albums of other Baltimore ladies, including another cousin, Elizabeth Rebecca Herring, Semtner thought it plausible a Poe poem could be found in the present album. This exhibit will be the first time the piece has been displayed for comparison alongside fully authenticated Poe manuscripts. If accepted by Poe scholars, this version of "To Helen" would be an important find because it represents a unique, unpublished draft that likely predates the poem's first printing in 1831 when Poe was 22.
This fascinating exhibit will also feature the reunion of fragments of some of Poe's essays that were cut apart and dispersed over 150 years ago. Other highlights of the show include two short stories, five poems, four essays, two pages of notes, and several letters. Of the interest advance word of this exhibit has generated, Semtner says, "Seeing all these letters in one place is the closest thing to standing over Poe's shoulder while he wrote."
The Poe Museum in Richmond, Virginia boasts the world's finest collection of Poe artifacts and memorabilia including the only surviving pieces of Poe's clothing, the author's bed, trunk, and walking stick as well as a lock of his hair. The Poe Museum is located at 1914 East Main Street in Richmond. For more information, visit www.poemuseum.org.
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