Thursday, September 13, 2012

Neat stuff from an 1880 volume of Edgar Allan Poe's works

This well-worn 1880 edition1 of "Select Works of Edgar Allan Poe, Poetical and Prose," besides having a fairly comprehensive selection2 of Poe's works in its 676 pages, features the kinds of little treasures that we love here on Papergreat.

First up, here is gorgeous gold lettering and design in the middle of the green front cover. (Chalk this up as another example of "Things you can never experience with an e-book.")

Second, check out the vintage bookplate for Louis Kaplan, one of the book's previous owners.3

But who was Louis Kaplan? And do we know exactly when he purchased this book? I believe we do, thanks to this extremely specific inscription at the front of the book.

It states:
Leary's Book Store
August 9, 1944
4:09 p.m.

Louis Kaplan
1041 Langham Avenue
Camden, New Jersey
And so we know exactly when this book was purchased.4 And where it was purchased.

Leary’s Book Store was a famous bookstore on South 9th Street in Philadelphia. It had been in business for nearly 100 years when it closed in the late 1960s.

Here are some neat tidbits about Leary's from Wikipedia:
  • It was within a three-story building with basement (all of them full of books).
  • Books were piled everywhere — on shelves and tables — for readers to browse through.
  • Additional books were placed outside on shelves in an alleyway separating it from Gimbels. Most of the time, the books and browsers were at the mercy of the weather.
  • The store tied its advertising to the “The Bookworm,” an 1850 painting by German painter and poet Carl Spitzweg. A cropped portion of this painting (shown at right), featuring the bookworm on a ladder, was used in Leary’s advertising.
  • The store purchased large collections of books from private libraries and offered them individually for sale. It claimed to have "twenty thousand square feet of books, representing nearly five hundred thousand volumes."
  • After the store closed, its remaining book stock was cataloged for auction. A number of extremely old documents were found among its contents, including an original broadside of the Declaration of Independence dated to 1776. It sold for more than $400,000 at auction.

1. The publisher was W.J. Widdleton of New York. Based upon the advertisements in the back of the book, Widdleton specialized in repackaging Poe's works in various shapes and sizes, including a four-volume "half calf" edition of his complete works for $15 (the equivalent of $334 today!) and a Blue and Gold Edition of Poe's poems for $1.
2. In addition to the standard stuff, some of Poe's humorous writings and essays featured in this volume include:
3. If you're a bookplate fan, here are some previous Papergreat posts in which they are featured:
4. Also on August 9, 1944:


  1. Loved Leary's bookstore! My Dad would take us there for an annual road trip. We were each allowed to choose books from Leary's children's section for our personal libraries. Fabulous place!

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