|Christie's Images Ltd.|
An extremely rare first edition of Edgar Allan Poe's "Tamerlane and Other Poems" published in Boston in 1827 was sold for $662,500 today at Christie's New York, a Christie's spokeswoman said.
There are only 12 known copies of the first edition. The book sold was one of only two copies still in private hands, Christie's said in a statement. The auctioneers had estimated the book would go for $500,000 to $700,000. The buyer's name wasn't disclosed.
The legendarily morbid writer was born on Jan. 19, 1809, on Carver Street in Boston, near where the State Transportation Building now stands.
His parents, traveling actors, soon left town. His mother died and his father abandoned the family, and Poe went to live with a foster family in Richmond.
After dropping out of the University of Virginia, he returned to the Hub. The budding 18-year-old writer lived in the city for five to eight months and published the 50 copies of "Tamerlane" at his own expense, said Paul Lewis, a Boston College English professor who is an expert on Poe.
Poe felt an affinity for Boston as the place where his mother and her family had thrived, Lewis said.
It's not clear, Lewis said, why Poe signed the book "A Bostonian." "Maybe he did it because he wasn't sure how it would be received," Lewis said. Signing "A Bostonian" gave him a way of simultaneously "being anonymous and claiming connection to the place where he was born," the professor speculated.
As an adult, Poe lived in Richmond, Philadelphia, New York City, and Baltimore. Poe made numerous visits to New England in 1848 and 1849 because he was courting women in Providence and Lowell, Lewis said. There is evidence he was looking to move to Massachusetts before he died in 1849, Lewis said.
Poe's Boston roots are little known, probably because of a quarrel he had with the city and its literary elite, including Transcendentalist writers Emerson and Thoreau, the Globe reported in April. City officials dedicated Poe Square near his birthplace that month.
Lewis said Poe's Boston ties will also be explored in an exhibit opening Dec. 17 at the Boston Public Library titled "The Raven in the Frog Pond: Edgar Allan Poe and the City of Boston." The exhibit will include one of the other 11 copies of "Tamerlane," he said.
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