In Search Of The Rarest Book In American Literature: Edgar Allan Poe’s Tamerlane


For book collectors and literary enthusiasts, the thrill of the hunt is often as exhilarating as the discovery itself. And when it comes to rare and coveted volumes, few are as elusive and coveted as Edgar Allan Poe’s debut poetry collection, _Tamerlane and Other Poems_. Published in 1827, this slim volume of 40 pages is considered the Holy Grail of American literature, with only a handful of copies known to exist.

The Elusive Tamerlane

_Tamerlane and Other Poems_ was Poe’s first published work, written when he was just 18 years old. The collection of 17 poems, including the titular “Tamerlane,” showcases the young poet’s early experiments with language, form, and theme. Although it received little attention during Poe’s lifetime, _Tamerlane_ has since become a legendary artifact, sought after by collectors and scholars alike.

So, what makes _Tamerlane_ so rare and valuable? For starters, only 50 copies of the original edition were printed, and many of these were likely lost or destroyed over time. Additionally, Poe himself was known to have destroyed some of the remaining copies, further reducing the number of surviving volumes. Today, only 12 copies of the original 1827 edition are known to exist, with several of these housed in institutions such as the Library of Congress and the New York Public Library.

The Quest for Tamerlane

For collectors and enthusiasts, the search for _Tamerlane_ is a lifelong pursuit. In 2009, a rare book dealer in New York City sold a copy of _Tamerlane_ for a staggering $662,500, setting a record for the most expensive American literary work ever sold at auction. This sale sparked a renewed interest in Poe’s debut collection, with collectors and institutions scrambling to acquire one of the few remaining copies.

But the search for _Tamerlane_ is not just about the monetary value; it’s also about the cultural significance of this rare book. As a window into Poe’s early creative process, _Tamerlane_ offers a unique glimpse into the development of one of America’s most beloved and influential writers. For scholars and researchers, access to this rare volume is essential for understanding the evolution of Poe’s style and themes.

The Digital Age and the Future of Tamerlane

In recent years, the rise of digital technology has transformed the way we access and interact with rare books like _Tamerlane_. Many institutions have digitized their copies of the volume, making it possible for scholars and enthusiasts to explore the text online. While this increased accessibility is a boon for research and education, it also raises questions about the future of rare book collecting and the value of physical artifacts.

As we move further into the digital age, will the allure of rare books like _Tamerlane_ begin to fade? Or will the tactile experience of holding a centuries-old volume in one’s hands continue to captivate collectors and enthusiasts? One thing is certain: the search for _Tamerlane_ will continue to captivate and inspire, a testament to the enduring power of literature and the human desire to connect with the past.


In the world of rare books, few volumes are as coveted as Edgar Allan Poe’s _Tamerlane and Other Poems_. This elusive debut collection has captivated collectors and scholars for generations, offering a glimpse into the early creative process of one of America’s most beloved writers. As we continue to search for this rare book, we are reminded of the importance of preserving our cultural heritage and the value of physical artifacts in the digital age. Whether you’re a seasoned collector or simply a lover of literature, the quest for _Tamerlane_ is a journey worth undertaking.


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